Written by Mark Perez and directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein, Game Night is a wonderful, fast moving and very funny dark comedy-cum-thriller. It just sneaks up on you and offers a refreshing antidote to the overrated, pretentious Oscar-winner The Shape of Water. In fact, it mercifully wipes out the bad taste left by that nonsense.
Right from the delightful opening scenes where we see games-obsessed Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) meet and fall in love, you just get the feeling that you’re in for an undemanding good time. And you’re not wrong.
The couple have a perfect relationship, marred only by the fact that Max’s sibling rivalry with his successful brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) is stressing him out so much that he’s not able to help Annie conceive. “I’m not loving your sperm” their doctor (Camille Chen) tells him.
And it doesn’t get any better when Brooks turns up in his brother’s dream car, a Stingray, and takes over the show, organizing his own very elaborate Game Night which will see the staged kidnapping of a player, with one of the three regular couples promised the keys to the car if they solve the mystery.
But what is real and what is fake here? In that respect it reminded me more than a little of David Fincher’s weird and twisted The Game; but mostly – because I wasn’t expecting such a rare treat – it brought to mind for me last year’s excellent Happy Death Day. As with Jessica Rothe in that film, Rachel McAdams is a pure joy to watch. Whether she goes full-on Pulp Fiction, looking sexy as hell as she waves what she believes is a fake gun around; or when she is using a militant white supremacist site to help her remove a bullet from Max’s arm, McAdams just steals the show. And the chemistry between the two is terrific.
Which is not in any way to take from everyone else involved. Despite the film moving along at a rate that goes from brisk to chaotic, we really get to like all of these characters –even their creepy neighbour Gary, wonderfully played by Jesse Plemons. They are — every one of them — sharply portrayed and work together seamlessly.
There are plot twists and even some genuinely surprising moments, held effortlessly together by imaginative directing. There is one marvelous shot where we see the neighbourhood laid out like something on a Monopoly board, but with a real car moving through it. Very clever indeed.
Throw in some great Cinematography from Barry Peterson and a score I can actually remember for a change from Cliff Martinez and you’ve got a smashing little package here. In fact, it’s the most pure fun I’ve had at the cinema since the aforementioned Happy Death Day.
Game Night is a winner for all concerned.