Game Night is an action-comedy about a group of suburban, competitive board gamers (yes, really) who set out to compete in a role-playing game only to find themselves thrust into a violent, real-world criminal conspiracy. Starring Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, and Kyle Chandler, Game Night is at its best when it's a simple comedy, but struggles when it's blending in action movie spectacle. As a Blu-ray, the 1080p HD video and the DTS-HD 5.1 mix are both outstanding, but the lack of bonus features is unsatisfying. Still, for its brilliant cast and slick action filmmaking, you might want to Give It A Rent.
With a talented cast and filmmakers at the helm, Game Night is genre mash-up that falls short of anything that resembles a big win. Directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (Vacation, Horrible Bosses) have combined the comedy, thriller, and action genres into one big charade. Sometimes it's difficult to unify the two and, more often than not, we receive movies that crossover into doltish sequences that don't make a lick of sense but simply try and evoke cheap laughs. On the other hand, movies like True Lies utterly excel when combing action/thriller genre elements with comedy. Game Night revolves around an absurd comedy that tries so hard to come up with big action sequences. The result is that none of it works, besides some chuckles here and there, plus some decent camera movements.
Game Night centers on Max and Annie (Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams), a married couple who are competitive game enthusiasts. They host a weekly game night with their good friends until, one night, Max's rich brother, Books (Kyle Chandler) shows up to embarrass Max and invite everyone to a more elaborate impressive type of roleplaying game -- think David Fincher's The Game -- where the winner will earn Brooks' new Corvette. Complete with FBI dossiers and a kidnap theme, Max, Annie, and their friends believe everything they experience is part of the game, even when two masked men burst in to beat up Brooks and an FBI agent. But, as the movie trots along, Max, Annie, and their friends realize this game is, in fact, real and they're all involved in a dangerous criminal conspiracy.
I would argue the best part of Game Night is the very first scene, which showcases layered characters simply having fun. But as the story accelerates, it feels more and more like an over-the-top Fast and Furious type of action movie where the sight-gags are unearned, coming across and frivolous, and where it seems like everyone's simply trying to improve funny lines. Bateman, as always, delivers a solid, dry performance, although his supporting players don't always seem to be on the same page or given enough time to shine. The action itself is good at times, especially the one-shot escape with a Fabergé egg, and the chase sequence with a hot rod and airplane. And there are a few good cameos in the last act. But, by this point in the story, no one's playing and we all end up losing. As you can see, this one just wasn't for me.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Game Night comes with a 50GB Blu-ray and a DVD Disc. There is an insert for the Digital Copy as well. A few trailers play before arriving at the main menu. The discs are housed in a hard, blue plastic case with a cardboard sleeve.
Game Night comes with a digitally-shot 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The palette for Game Night isn't bright and sunny but rather takes place at nighttime with a lot of seedy underground locations that implore neon colors, which looks strong in each sequence. Scenes taking place in the suburban household are a little muted with earthy toned walls and soft mood lighting. The bright primary colors come into play mostly in the opening sequence of CGI board game pieces falling through the air, which looks amazing. The luminous neon signs at bars and other locations light up the screen too.
Moving on to the detail of the image, closeups display five o'clock shadows, wrinkles, and makeup blemishes easily. The rich structure of Max's brother's house shows the sheen and nuances of the stone and marble floors and walls with clear characteristics in the architecture. Additionally, the big CGI scene at the beginning with all of the big game pieces exhibit all of the textures of the plastic pieces, which look very realistic. Black levels are genuine and skin tones are natural. Zero instances of any aliasing, banding, or any other artifacts showed up on this video presentation.
Game Night features a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and is surprisingly boisterous right from the start. Being a comedy film mixed with some thrills, I didn't expect this audio mix to be as loud and thunderous as it was, but I was satisfied none-the-less. The sound effects all come with a deep low-end that adds a bit of depth to each gunshot, engine rev, and punch thrown. Each of these effects has excellent directionality and is quite forceful, often serving to startle the audience after big laughs.
Bigger ambient noises at crowded houses or bars always bring in the appropriate music, pool table effects, or other people talking to the surround speakers at a good volume. The climactic chase sequence overtakes the speakers, which will make you think you're listening to a Michael Bay film, which is nothing to complain about here. The Cliff Martinez electronic score always adds to the thrilling and nostalgic vibe of the old board games that are being played, as well as the Queen tunes that pop up here and there. Dialogue is always clean and easy to follow, and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, and shrills.
Game Night mixes chaotic violence and action with vulgar comedy, but it doesn't always work. In fact, I think the best moments in the film are when the actors are simply playing board games. When guns, villains, and airplanes come into the picture, everything becomes uneven despite some good performances and stellar camera shots. The video and audio presentations are both top-notch, but the lack of bonus features doesn't win any points here. Give It a Rent.