Surviving the Game
Reviewed by Reed Hubbard
Rating: 8 Beans
s a kid, I sat in front of the TV every afternoon watching "Gilliganís Island." One of the episodes I remember concerns a hunter who turns up and proceeds to pursue Gilligan. This was just one of Hollywoodís many treatments of "The Most Dangerous Game," a 1932 movie in which a hunter causes a ship to wreck on an uninhabited island so that he may stalk and kill the passengers. Yet, as many times as Hollywood works a theme, thereís always someone whoíll rehash it for a quick buck. Such is the case with 1994ís "Surviving the Game."
In this stupid reinterpretation, the hunted is Mason, a homeless man from Seattle. Ice-T plays the lead, and he stumbles through the movie, muttering obscenities and looking lost. He always looks like heís got somewhere better to be than here delivering his lines. Itís as if the filming is keeping him from getting to some rapper throwdown, so heís woodenly acting just to get through. You can imagine him telling the director, "Yo! Dis @#&% ainít dope enough fo my famous ass! I got thangs ta do!"
In an equally lifeless performance, Rutger Hauer wanders on camera as Burns, the owner of Hellís Canyon Outfitters. He hires Mason, a homeless city boy with no wilderness experience, to be a hunting guide. Youíd think Mason would suspect somethingís up, especially when Burns and his partner Cole (Charles Dutton) fly him out to the remote Oregon wilderness and the others turn up. The entire party consists of a psychiatrist, a stock broker and his son, a Texas oil millionaire, Burns and Cole (who turn out to be ex-CIA), and a homeless, dreadlocked gangsta from the inner city. Whatís wrong with this picture?
Gary Busey turns in essentially the same performance heís given in every movie since "Lethal Weapon," although he is a bit more animated as Hawkins, the psychotic shrink. Incredibly miscast as Wolfe, the Wall Street tycoon, F. Murray Abraham looks like a buffoon. Hey, it has been 10 years since "Amadeus," and even Oscar winners have to eat. He is also forced into the biggest caricature of the movie, telling his son that Mason is "not a person, heís a homeless piece of @#&%!" Gordon Gekko is Mother Teresa compared to this snake. John C. McGinley does the only commendable job as Griffin, the oil millionaire who is out for revenge after a stalker murdered his daughter.
But Ice-T is the centerpiece, and it is he who truly makes this film suck canal water. They should have done him like Elvis and let him rap half of his lines. At least he would have come across as more natural. Canít you just see him running through the woods with a cordless mike and portable drum machine:
Dese dudes be chasin my ass
Cuz of my homeless past
I gotta run fast
Or it be my last
Whyíd the director put me in this cast?
Without his hip-hop trappings, Ice-T is downright funny when trying to be the action hero. I got a huge laugh when Mason doubles back to the cabin and breaks open a locked door, only to find jars of formaldehyde, each with a human head, except for the one labeled, "Mason." But I got an even bigger laugh when Hawkins and Mason duel it out outside the (now burning) cabin. "I like my meat rare!" sneers a menacing Hawkins. Mason tosses him inside the building and retorts, "Try well done, Bitch!" Then the house explodes. Now thatís funny!
Alas, the movie doesnít maintain this level of comedy. I guess thatís because itís supposed to be dramatic, but it isnít even that. Itís just a tired reworking of an old story thatís been floating around Hollywood for more than sixty years and has been done by many others to a much greater effect.
Heck, even Gilligan did it better.
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