Surviving the Game (1994)
Directed by: Ernest R. Dickerson
Premise: A homeless man (Ice-T) is offered a chance to be a hired hand at a remote hunting ranch for wealthy sportsmen. When he arrives, the homeless man discovers that he is the intended prey and leads the hunters on a cat and mouse game through the wilderness.
What Works: Surviving the Game is fun takeoff of the premise of The Most Dangerous Game. That 1932 film has had many remakes and imitators over the years but this one is among the better incarnations. The film has a leg up on some similar films in part because of its main character, played by Ice-T. Although he is tough, the character is also sympathetic. Far from the kinds of supermen that usually populate this kind of film, Ice-T’s character is desperate, does not know what to do, and is forced to rely on ingenuity and cunning to evade the hunters. This practical quality is shared with the rest of the film. Like First Blood, The Edge, and Deliverance, the action scenes of Surviving the Game are mostly grounded in a degree of realism that makes them more credible and therefore more exciting than a lot of larger-scale adventure films. Among the villains, Surviving the Game features Gary Busey in one of his most insane performances and Busey’s wild energy, especially in a dinner time story about his first kill, does a lot to elevate this film. There is also a socio-economic undertone to Surviving the Game that gives it a bit of depth between the running and the shooting, and the relationship between a father and his son (F. Murray Abraham and William McNamara) gives the hunting expedition a tinge of insight into the rituals of manhood. The film is no grand statement about masculinity but these little touches distinguish it from a lot of other low budget action pictures from the 1990s.
What Doesn’t: Surviving the Game is a B-movie and should be enjoyed as such. The film has its share of silly one-liners, plot holes and incredulous moments. The ending is a bit of a letdown, as the climax doesn’t give the main character or its villain enough of a resolution.
DVD extras: None.
Bottom Line: Surviving the Game is a fun action film that can be enjoyed for the kind of B-entertainment that it is. The film is certainly a lot better than many higher profile action films of recent years.
Episode: #297 (July 18, 2010)