Director: David Fincher
Cast: Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, Deborah Kara Unger, James Rebhorn
Released: September 12, 1997
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS!!!!!! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!!!
So I'm at the video store and I'm browsing though the "Favorites" section (only $1 for five nights!) and I pass The Game and I must have heard somebody talk about it on a recent movie podcast (which I listen to many - I should write an entry about that someday) because it had been in the back of my mind as just one of the many movies I should watch someday. I thought, hey why not? It's a psychological thriller; it could be interesting and cool. It's directed by David Fincher; he's given us some good, critically-acclaimed movies. It stars Michael Douglas and Sean Penn as brothers, that's not shabby casting.
I wasn't really sure what to expect from this movie, but the ending literally made me say "WTF!?" There will be spoilers, as I have already warned above, so be warned (again) because I don't know how to talk about this movie without giving away any spoilers.
Michael Douglas is Nicolas Van Orton, a very wealthy investment banker who is about to turn 49, the same age his father was when he committed suicide and which Nicolas witnessed. Sean Penn (who is barely in the movie) plays his brother, Conrad, who has had substance abuse problems in the past and who Nicolas rarely sees.
For his birthday, Conrad gives Nicolas a voucher to a company called CRS - Consumer Recreation Services. He can redeem it for a "game" and makes Nicolas promise that he will call them and redeem the ticket. Nicolas asks him what it means, but Conrad doesn't tell him, but only says that it will change his life and it's something he must do.
After hearing some fellow members from his fancy gentlemens' club he frequents (you know, the kind of place with lots of leather furniture where rich old white men smoke cigars and drink whiskey while discussing politics and finance) talking about this so-called "game", he becomes intrigued (especially when they will not tell him what it is, but again imply that it will change his life) and goes to the CRS offices to apply. There, a somewhat unorganized employee helps him with the application form and the process of signing up for this "game". He has to answer a survey of never-ending questions that range from the bizarre to very personal. He also has to go through a series of mental and physical tests; it's almost like he's being trained to be an astronaut or something. There's a lot of waiting time between each test and you can't blame him when he is becoming very testy and snaps at the employee, "You've already taken up my entire day!" when the employee tells him he has to wait just a few more minutes before the results are ready. After this agonizing and irritating day, Nicolas finds it has just been a waste of time when he gets a reject letter in the mail saying he is not qualified for the game.
But Nicolas knows something is up when he returns home one night and there's a creepy life-size clown doll laying in his driveway with a note in its mouth. Why he decides to bring the clown into his house and sit him on a chair in his living room, I have no idea. I would not want that creepy clown anywhere near me! He has the news on in the background and as he's looking over the clown, the newscaster suddenly starts talking like he's having a one on one conversation with Nicolas and that catches his attention and the newscaster tells him there's a camera in the clown's eye. Right now I am both totally intrigued and confused...
The note he finds in the clown's mouth has a key attached to it and the newscaster tells him that he will need to find what the key is for and he will find two more keys and it is up to him to know what the keys are for and when to use them. As the days go on, Nicolas becomes more paranoid and it seems like everyone he comes in contact with has something to do with what's going on around him.
Things start getting out of hand and Nicolas stars to fear for his life and think that CRS is after his money. Conrad confesses to him that CRS if after him too and that he owes them money and even though he paid them double, they won't leave him alone.
So after almost being drowned in a submerged car underwater, after having his home totally ransacked and destroyed, after being drugged and left in a Mexican cemetery, after having to find his way back to the States with only a little money, after (thinking) he accidently shot and killed his brother, and after leaping off the roof of a skyscraper to his death does he find out....it really was a game all along! SURPRISE! The entire thing, from when Conrad gives him the voucher is already in place and planned. Every person that Nicholas meets along the way is in some way involved with this "game" and everything is meticulously planned to how the events will unfold. I was aware of anybody that Nicholas met along the way, like the waitress who gets caught up in his activities...I thought she might have something to do with the whole thing and she did. I just wasn't aware that EVERYBODY he encountered was in on it too. They even planned his "suicide" - when he jumped, he just happened to break through fake glass and land on a huge air mattress where all the guests for his surprise birthday party are waiting for him. Good thing he didn't jump off the other side of the building!
Why this elaborate hoax? Because Conrad thought it would help him embrace life and stop being such a hardass like their father or something, I really don't know. All I know is that if somebody ever did that to me, I would scream expletives at them and NEVER talk to them again. Does Nicholas do that? Noooo. He's not mad at all! He even flirts with the woman who played the waitress and was in on it. Ugh. Interesting premise, stupid ending.