One of the many perks of living in Los Angeles, aside from the weather, are the opportunities movie lovers are afforded, like a Tuesday night early screening of Game Night, plus a Q&A with star Jason Bateman and directors John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein. During the Q&A, one fan brought up how this movie, thankfully, gave hardly anything away with the trailers that debuted before the movie's release, which was completely true, especially since the trailers focus on the straight-up comedy aspects of Game Night, as one would expect from a movie starring Jason Bateman, and revealed practically nothing about the surprisingly effective thriller aspects of the movie... and how dark it can get at times.
I remember being surprisingly impressed when the trailers for Game Night first came out, but it still didn't strike me as being anything too groundbreaking. It looked like a funny comedy with some solid action elements, but the hilariously thrilling yarn woven by screenwriter Mark Perez (who wrote an underrated comedy favorite of mine, Accepted), is much more deft and versatile than meets the eye. Yes, the movie does center around a group of couples who get together for a weekly game night, which normally is comprised of charades, Pictionary and other games of that ilk. I'm not sure if I'm sad or grateful that they didn't make the most obvious reference of them all: Clue, but I digress. The festivities are always hosted by the uber-competitive couple Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams), but when Max's super-cool brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) surprisingly comes back into town, he insists on hosting game night at his new pad, which turns out to be a kidnapping mystery party.
Of course, you see in the trailers that things go awry and these couples don't realize that, despite Brooks telling them that this is all part of the game... some of it isn't, thanks to his shady dealings that he's kept secret from his family and friends. What you don't see in the trailers is how well these characters are developed, with everything from the sibling rivalry between Max and Brooks that cuts a lot deeper than we'd expect, along with the longtime soulmates Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury), whose night takes a turn after Michelle's unexpected admission about sleeping with a celebrity (which has a hilarious payoff in the movie, AND in the end-credit sequence), and the dim-witted Ryan (Billy Magnussen) and mis-matched (i.e. intelligent) Sarah (Sharon Horgan), who Billy invites to this party as more of a "ringer" than a "date."
I really didn't have many issues with the performances at all, and while there are also a few wonderful glorified cameos from Jeffrey Wright, Danny Huston, Chelsea Peretti and Michael C. Hall, the absolute MVP of this murderer's row of a cast is Jesse Plemons, who is so pitch-perfect as Gary I almost want to see an entire "day-in-the-life" spin-off. You only see him for a brief moment in the trailers, but trust me, he's an absolute scene-stealer who straight-up crushes this role. Another thing that surprised me was the phenomenal score by Cliff Martinez (Drive)... not that it was phenomenal, but merely that he scored a movie like this, with directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein mentioning during the Q&A that this was the composer's first ever comedy.
This is Daley and Goldstein's second directorial effort, following the 2015 Vacation reboot, and they've more than proven that their range goes far beyond the comedic realm, handling the chase scenes and other action set pieces with a unique touch. The filmmakers are likely about to take another huge, step forward in their directorial career, in negotiations to direct Warner Bros. next DCEU adventure Flashpoint. While it will be a massive step up in terms of scale and scope, their vision and execution on Game Night more than proves that they're ready and up to the task at hand. If you think their movie Game Night will be your typical brainless action comedy, you best think again, because this movie has more than enough laughs, action and plenty of suspense, with more than enough unexpected twists thrown in to boot, that makes this movie well worth seeing on the big screen.