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While the plot defies logic, with holes one could drive an eighteen wheeler through, THE GAME ($30) turns out to be a very entertaining thriller if one is willing to totally surrender their disbelief to this very stylish film. Michael Douglas stars in THE GAME as Nicholas Van Orton, a wealthy businessman who lives a very orderly existence. That is, until he receives a strange birthday present from his brother Conrad (Sean Penn). Conrad gives Nicholas a gift certificate that entitles him that to a game. Conrad then tells Nicholas that the game will be a life altering experience and encourages him to play.

Intrigued, Nicholas goes to the company that provides the game, where he discovers that no two games are ever the same since each is individually tailored to the participant. Once the game begins, Nicholas’ orderly life begins to unravel, slowly at first, but then accelerating to the point where the game turns deadly. With his world crashing down around him, Nicholas tries to discover who is pulling the strings, so he can stop the game once and for all. THE GAME is a beautifully crafted entertainment, thanks to David Fincher’s very stylized direction and the plot twists found in John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris’ screenplay. Michael Douglas is very effective as Nicholas and Sean Penn has seldom been more likable than he is as Conrad. The excellent cast of THE GAME also features Deborah Kara Unger, James Rebhorn, Peter Donat, Carroll Baker, Anna Katerina and Armin Mueller-Stahl.

Polygram Video offers THE GAME in both Letterboxed and cropped presentations on opposite sides of their THX certified DVD. The cropped presentation destroys far too much of David Fincher’s carefully controlled compositions to make this version worth viewing. However, it looked okay if one absolutely must view a film this way. The Letterboxed transfer restores the essential of the film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio and is a knockout. The image is very crisp and detailed looking throughout the film while colors reproduced flawlessly. Like SEVEN, color design in THE GAME is very controlled with much of the film having very subdued hues. However, there are sequences where the colors are purposely over-saturated; these sequences render without a hint of color noise or distortion. Digital compression artifacts were seldom noticeable, except in the darkest of sequences.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has great channel separation and solid bass. The mix effectively helps to draw the viewer into the world of THE GAME. Other soundtrack options include a matrixed Dolby Surround compatible track and a French language track. The DVD includes English captioning and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus have a bit of animation that adds to the fun of the presentation. Through the menus one can access a theatrical trailer, a theatrical teaser, plus cast and crew biographies/filmographies.

As I stated above, if one is willing to surrender to THE GAME, the film turns out to be a highly entertaining thrill ride. The DVD does justice to the film and is well worth acquiring. Recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright 998 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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