You know what game is the most dangerous game to play? No, not Risk! Not 'Jumanji' either. Okay, give up? The answer is 'The Game of Death.' I mean how much more dangerous can you get? We're talking about death here. A game of death. Where the loser dies and the winner walks away, but most likely limping and with a couple of stab wounds. This isn't a game for sissies. It's a good thing Wesley Snipes is involved.
Direct-to-home-video shoot 'em up extravaganza 'The Game of Death' is one of the least fun games I've witnessed. Marcus (Snipes) is a CIA agent. No one can know what he's up to. He's working a security detail for a very mean man named Smith (Robert Davi). When Smith's convoy is attacked by rogue CIA agents, some of which happen to be Marcus' close buddies, things go awry.
During the mayhem Smith suffers a stroke, so Marcus drives him to the nearest hospital to get treatment. The CIA team encircles the hospital and closes it down, but they're no match for Snipes' uncanny ability to make fight scenes look increasingly mundane. No emotion, no exertion, Snipes just stands there flails his arms about and blocks almost every punch and kick thrown at him. Like they choreographed it or something.
'The Game of Death' seems like one of those titles where the writers were just completely stumped. It's so beautifully generic, but mildly threatening at the same time it's bound to get a couple blind buys just because people want to see what this deadly game is all about.
Well, just so you don't make the mistake of picking this one up let me tell you what happens. Marcus becomes trapped in the hospital, which is one of the least busy hospitals known to man. He runs around the hallways dispatching bad guys with swift kicks and neck snapping techniques. He gets into more than a few gun battles in completely empty rooms and long corridors. This is partially explained by some random character saying that the hospital added a new wing so they're moving everyone over there. How convenient, now Marcus has an entire empty hospital to himself so he can administer his 'Game of Death.'
As the body count rises, its hard to root for Marcus because the guy doesn't really care about anything. Some poor nurse gets shot on accident because of him, oh well. No biggie. She shouldn't have been playing the 'Game of Death'! She should have read the warnings and just stayed out.
The villains, are a band of rogue CIA agents and to show they're badness they shoot people without provocation. "Take that superfluous, ER doctor! I just shot you in the gut because I'm a bad guy and that's what I do." Oddly enough, as Marcus leaves a trail of death all across the hospital, no one actually finds any of the bodies. The police are never called in after Marcus starts killing people.
There's a reason why 'Game of Death' is a straight-to-home-video release. It was too dangerous for theaters! Only kidding, but wouldn't that have been an awesome tagline for this movie? "Too dangerous for theaters, we didn't even dare show it there!"
Oddly enough, 'Game of Death' punches and kicks its way onto Blu-ray with a fine looking 1080p transfer. Barring the silly, impractical black and white quick cuts, this is a pretty good looking Blu-ray.
Detail is perfectly rendered, as facial detail really shines here. Snipes may look bored, but you'll be able to see every bored pore on his bored face. Individual beads of sweat are visible. Colors pop off the screen with resounding clarity. The aerial shots of Detroit are pretty stunning actually. Some of the best fly over photography that I've seen on Blu-ray without even a hint of aliasing.
For a direct-to-home-video production, this looks close to stellar on Blu-ray. Blacks are nice and consistent, adding dimensionality to the movie. Yes, for some reason the filmmakers decided on some amateurish stylistic choices during some of the fight scenes, like switching from color to black and white and then back to color. Or my personal favorite is when they superimpose Snipes' face in the back ground as he's hiding around a corner. Even with those ridiculous filming choices, this is still a great looking low-budget title.
While not as amazing as the video presentation, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix does a nice job conveying the mayhem happening on screen. As Snipes navigates the empty halls of the hospital getting into fights around every corner, the oomph from the punches and kicks can be felt coming out of the front channels.
There isn't much talking going on, but when there is, the dialogue comes out cleanly without being hampered much. Pans work smoothly as helicopters soar overhead flying in and out of frame. Cars zoom through the frame as the sound of their engine passes from one end of the soundstage to the other. For a low-budget affair such as this, the sonic wares featured are pretty surprising. It isn't a mix that will blow the roof off your living room, but it can hold its own against other action movies.
Direct to home video stuff rarely offers an amazing cinematic experience. Occasionally you find a diamond among the rough, but searching for it can feel like The Game of Death. You'll run across generic film after generic film searching for that one movie no one knows exists, but it's really great. 'The Game of Death' isn't that movie. It's a straight forward action film staring a lethargic Wesley Snipes going through the paces. And if you think Snipes looks tired, just wait until you get a load of the script and its plot. Surprisingly, the audio/visual presentation gets relatively high marks. The special features are the same run-of-the-mill extras that we've seen hundreds of times before. Still, I just can't recommend this one. No matter, it'll be playing on Spike TV sometime in the very near future. You'll be able to catch it then.