Dangerous Game

| November 16, 2015

There are genres of film I just don’t enjoy.  Movies about making movies is definitely one of them.  Of course, there are exceptions (Adaptation., State and Main, Ed Wood), but as a rule I find these types of stories to be incredibly low stakes and thus uninteresting.  Dangerous Game is definitely one of these low-stakes examples with a flimsy story and virtually no character development.  The story follows Eddie (Harvey Keitel; Pulp Fiction), a director working on his new intense drama with his principal actors Sarah (Madonna; A League of Their Own) and Frank (James Russo; Django Unchained).  The two actors play a husband and wife in an extremely dysfunctional and abusive relationship, and Eddie’s film strives to show the raw emotion at that idea’s core.

I can’t fault the acting at all here.  Keitel, Madonna, and Russo are all phenomenal in their roles, and when the latter two are doing scenes together for the movie in the movie, it’s mesmerizing.  Whether their exchanges are verbally, psychologically, physically, or sexually abusive, you can’t look away.  It made me wish I was watching the movie they were making, rather than this story about them making it.  Obviously, that film would also have its issues concerning violence against women given Sarah’s character never finds the inner-strength to retaliate against her abusive husband and take back control of her life, but Russo brings so much energy to the role that it looks absolutely exhausting to perform.

Had I been able to just watch the movie within this movie, I would have probably liked it very much.  It’s theatrical, intimate, brutal, and captivating.  However, since the Keitel character is allowed to yell “cut” and disrupt the drama of the part of the film I’m interested in, there’s nothing at stake.  Sure, Keitel’s infidelity comes into play, and Russo’s blurring of the lines between his character and himself is interesting, but nothing has any stakes.  I suppose the movie is trying to comment on the fact that all films are inherently low-stakes by not being real, but films are so popular for a reason.  The audience is able to suspend their disbelief and imagine what they would do in the fantastical situations playing out on screen.  Plus, our brains have a habit of taking something we see and reflexively believing whatever we’re seeing is happening to us.  This creates specific responses in our bodies when we watch a movie, and people enjoy that for the most part.  By calling “cut” and making the movie about making an interesting movie, they’re pointing out that everything we’re seeing is fabricated.  We have no purpose in suspending our disbelief or investing in the characters or imagining ourselves in these situations.  I can only compare it to when a movie points out when its using a cliché.  One character might say something like “come on, don’t sit around depressed and eating ice cream.  That’s such a cliché.”  The problem is that calling attention to the cliché doesn’t justify it.  And calling attention to the low-stakes nature of your film doesn’t justify it.

Olive Films does continue to impress with their beautiful blu-ray transfers however, bringing this 90s Hollywood drama to vibrant life with this new release.  The blu-ray includes both the rated and unrated versions of the film, which are the same length, so I’m not exactly sure what the difference is, but I assume one of the more violent scenes was cut down to make it easier to digest for the audience.

Available on Blu-ray November 17.

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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