Game of Death (Blu-ray)
We’ve all been there. It’s a boring weekend night with your friends or your significant other, there’s nothing on, no good movies in theaters, and you’re kind of out of it and just want something brainless and entertaining to pop in the DVD player so you can relax.
Unfortunately, GAME OF DEATH is not that movie, though to be fair, it’s got the “brainless” part covered in spades.
Wesley Snipes, seen here doing his tax penance, stars as Marcus, a by-the-book CIA agent, who repeatedly refers to himself as “a CIA agent,” as spies are known to do. It will perhaps come as no surprise to learn that he is weary and disillusioned after years of doing ill-described bad things, but that he is nonetheless dedicated to his job. In fact, he tells us as much during a somewhat useless confessional framing sequence set in a Catholic church, with Ernie Hudson wasted in the thankless role of the priest to whom Marcus unburdens himself.
Marcus and his team of agents have been assigned to follow a sleazy arms dealer (B-movie stalwart Robert Davi, who is by far the classiest presence here) on his way to a business transaction with an equally sleazy billionaire Wall Street trader. Marcus has, offscreen, infiltrated Davi’s organization and posed as his personal bodyguard, but this interesting setup is quickly discarded as Marcus’s second-in-command, Zander, played by THE EXPENDABLES’ Gary Daniels, goes rogue, killing their CIA boss and the arms dealer’s bodyguards and wounding Marcus in a bid to kidnap the dealer, go to the meeting and steal the businessman’s $100 million.
This all ends up being considerably less interesting than it sounds, though. B-movies aren’t often known for their writing but GAME OF DEATH plumbs new depths, both in terms of the cliche-o-matic dialogue and the nonsensical plot. A group of friends could have a lot of fun repeating lines like “I’ve always wanted to date a bodyguard,” or “I killed your boss, your mentor, your father figure.” I’ll leave it as an exercise to future viewers to wonder why Marcus goes to such lengths to protect his arms dealer target and then abandons him for no reason; why, when given access to a vault full of money, the villains only steal the money already laid out in briefcases in the front of the room and ignore the stacks of dollars on the walls; or what kind of movie takes the time to set up its main character as a diabetic and then never once uses an insulin attack as a plot device.
Director Giorgio Serafini does what he can to liven up the proceedings with interesting camerawork, and he does accomplish a feat that eludes so many major directors inasmuch as his action scenes are staged in such a way that you can actually tell what’s going on, but no director can save a script this terrible or convince us that a tiny hotel lobby is the ground floor of a billion-dollar corporation.
Video: The 2.35:1 visuals on this Blu-Ray are competently presented, but high definition does a picture like this no favors, making cheap setwork and costumes uncomfortably apparent.
Audio: Game of Death sports a DTS 5.1 surround mix but rarely makes the best use of it. This is a quickie DVD for a quickie movie.
Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes: A series of six short pieces totaling about ten minutes in length, each focusing on one aspect of the production: “The Story,” “The Action,” and so forth. The people involved in this movie seem well-meaning enough, but they don’t have much to say – not that we can blame them.