Elliot Brindle (Mark Webber Scott Pilgrim vs The World) is a down on his luck salesman who always bore the brunt of his family’s needs. He pays for his special needs brother’s care, he puts up with a father who is unpleasant and ornery, he’s not respected at work. He does have a loving fiancee, Shelby (Rutina Wesley, “True Blood”) and a baby on the way. But Elliot’s already bad luck takes a turn for the even worse when what should be an interview for a promotion turns into a firing; with scathing comments from his superiors. He’ll lose his insurance and his brother’s program won’t be covered and his father (played by Tom Bower, Thr3e, Hills Have Eyes) is in failing health and has to move in with him.
Certain elements make me feel for Elliot. He went to college but studied a foolish major, he’s a Type B with a Type A job. He never could take risks because he had responsibility beyond his years already caring for his brother while his father acted like a self centered asshole following their mother’s death when Elliot was nine.
But when he lets his father move in… his father -a vehement racist, sexist and all around asshole.. Elliot lets that shitbag move in with his black bride to be. A man who asks Shelby to zip his pants for him. I lost all sympathy for Elliot there. Worse yet, it was just thrown in to give another reason why Elliot’s life was so shitty… but in a twist of somewhat bad writing it’s also made out that Elliot wants to impress his father. It was just pointless really, just to show that Elliot was wishy washy -understandably as a way to show how quickly Elliot evolves (and devolves) in the film.
Elliot is having his worst day ever when he receives a phone call. The voice on the other end instructs Elliot to kill a fly, and then eat it for a reasonable sum of money. He is then told that he has the chance to win a life changing sum of money All he h) as to do is complete 13 challenges …and hey, he’s already done 2! On the list? Destroying a nativity scene, desecrating a corpse, amputating a childhood bully’s arm, making a small child cry …and killing someone.
The police respond to the crimes and get descriptions from eyewitnesses. They realizes that there is one perpetrator for all these crimes. Detective Chilcoat (Ron Perlman, Hellboy, “Sons of Anarchy”) starts to investigate and meets a conspiracy theorist who tells him about “The Game.”
This game has a few rules. The player can’t tell anyone about the game, for example. So Elliot spends much time ducking his wife on his quest. Once Chilcoat gets involved it reaches pandemonium. Then Elliot realizes that there are other players and the carnage ramps up again.
Only one problem. No one acts like this. Rutina Wesley’s Shelby is the only characters who acts like a human being.
Everyone else acts like a caricature. The plot is good (and also ripped off from a Thai film called 13:Game of Death which makes more sense as a title since killing a fly and eating it is not a sin at all). But the character development is terrible. Especially towards the end. Chilcoat’s actions are random and make no sense. The movie seems to want us to root for Elliot over Chilcoat from the get go (even though Chilcoat is doing his job an Elliot’s actions are reprehensible) so they throw in this foolish twist to make Chilcoat corrupt. But Elliot has devolved into a frantic fiend at that point.
Elliot could have been a badass anti-hero. This film could have explored the human condition, what capitalism and desperation will bring out of a mild mannered person. But the character development is just not there.
Interestingly, Mark Webber grew up homeless living in cars and eating scraps and doing anything for money before he broke into the biz. He and his mother participate in activism to raise awareness about homelessness, attend protests and they volunteer time in shelters. …And he’s playing a man who becomes a murderous asshole in a matter of hours after losing his job. Done well, it would have been great. A man pushed to the brink because he’s in poverty, he’s unable to “be a man” in the eyes of society and he is driven insane on this quest to get rich quick and provide the American Dream for his family, like an able bodied man “should”. But instead, Elliot’s actions become so reprehensible that the only conclusion on his character is that poor people would kill you for a dollar. And fuck that.
Chilcoat’s actions also make no sense. He’s painted as the “bad guy”, the antagonist that’s going to stop Elliot. But he should! Elliot is causing wanton destruction and injury. But then Chilcoat joins up with the game runners and it makes no sense. Why? Money? So is the moral of the story that ALL people would sell their soul and toss aside their beliefs for a payout? What the…
Not only that, the game runners are everywhere and can see everything. It’s been happening for decades but no one knows because the police all sell out and cover it up. There are multiple people playing at once who run into each other all the time. Elliot has a bank app on his flip phone. It’s just not believable.
SO close, but so far.
SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT
For the final challenge: Elliot has to kill a family member. His father who is a fucking racist is an excellent choice, especially after it is revealed that their father killed their mom to win the game. And I watched it screaming at the screen: “Just do it together, Elliot and Michael kill dad together and they both win!” but they DONT DO THAT. Elliot spends too much time yapping after dismissing Michael …why? To keep Michael innocent? Can’t be. Michael has already killed people. So Elliot is that greedy. Or ableist. Maybe both. anyway, dad slits his throat rather than let Elliot win. That leaves Elliot and Michael to face off. There’s also this weird connotation that Michael doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong which also seems ableist and gross.
And even more baffling: after Elliot kills Michael, Elliot kills Chilcoat and forfeits his prize.
It makes no sense.
It makes no sense and it was awful.
I could have suspended disbelief for the see all gamerunners but the ending was so terrible and the character development was heavy handed as all hell. The pranks were somewhat creative and there was plenty of gore and mayhem. Just didn’t hit the mark, even the badass cast couldn’t save this shitshow of classism and ableism.