The 'Game' Review

The climax of ‘Game’ is so bad I'm embarrassed to have seen it and therefore am a bit ashamed to write even an unkind review. 

The film’s supremely-dumb script has insurmountable problems as it panders it’s way, replete with far too many loose ends, asinine plot devises and laughable red herrings until it splutters, chokes, and finally loses itself to its own insanity. What really wounds is that ‘Game’ has a premise with a pedigree and a little promise – its got snazzy, exotic locales like Greece, London, Turkey, Thailand; an antagonist with a very interesting motive; love for Agatha Christie’s ‘And then there were none’ on full display complete with an underlying menace. So the possibility that this ostensibly dark whodunit might actually be good springs eternal for a full ten seconds -  exactly the amount of time that passes until someone utters the first of writer Althea Delmas Kaushal’s tragically cheesy lines. It would be misleading to say that ‘Game’ is a missed opportunity, because in spite of the film’s large cast (Jr B, Kangana Ranaut, Jimmy Shergill, Boman Irani, Anupam Kher, Shahana Goswami, Gauhar Khan and newcomer Sarah-Jane Dias), this flaccid corpse, like its characters, seems to be dead on arrival. 

‘Game’ is a half baked murder mystery, structurally less solid than Surendra Mohan Pathak’s Hindi language khooni potboilers one buys at railway stations. Of course, since this is a Bollywood whodunit - a weird strain of cinema in which all women, no matter how shrill and unpleasant, are nothing less than saints, and all men, with the singular exception of Imran Khan, are heartless (in the comedies) or violent (in the thrillers) – so the killing spree has to be the work of some MAN. And ‘Game’ gives us plenty to choose from.  We have Abhishek Bachchan, an Indian Drug Lord in Turkey, Boman Irani, a Prime Ministerial candidate in Bangkok, Jimmy Shergill, an actor, Anupam Kher, a multi zillionaire in Greece. Also in the mix are drunk reporter Shahana Goswami and investigating officer Kangana Ranaut. Director Abhinay Deo  builds up the usual false suspects before lazily revealing the murderer to be the person we should least suspect, who is altogether too obvious because of the well worn formula. It all wraps up in the usual way, with characters who’d earlier been shady and suspicious suddenly turning solicitous of the murder victim. Of course, there is a big kahani me twist, but it is so ham-fisted you almost expect Porky the Pig to make an appearance. 

I must admit that ‘Game’ begins with a bang – a 20-something named Ayesha (played by the hot hot hot newcomer Sarah Jane) collides with a car, and we’re treated with abstract imagery of various characters: Vikram (Shergill) is a Mumbai-based actor who has just killed someone with a glass bottle, OP (Irani) is a politician in Thailand with truckloads of black money and a lot of interest in child prostitution, Tisha (Goswami) is an alcoholic journalist cooling her heels in a London jail for DUI, Neil (Bachchan) is an Istanbul-based drug overlord making a getaway in a fast car. They all receive a mysterious invitation letter from a well known gazillionaire named  Kabir(Anupam Kher) – he offers Vikram a chance to escape imprisonment, OP a chance to turn all his black money legit, Tisha a chance to cover a huge political scandal and change her life, and Neil a cool 20 million dollars. The despos oblige, travel to Samos and finally meet Kabir on his island paradise (yes he owns the whole damn island, and has a butler and a secretary). Introductions are made, but almost immediately the defecation hits the oscillation when Kabir reveals his true intentions. It turns out that Ayesha was Kabir’s (estranged) daughter, and that all four guests are responsible for her death in some way. 

Much to everyone’s horror, Kabir has gathered damaging evidence against all of them, has already called the cops, and wants sweet revenge. As the guests have conniptions in the dark of the night, a shot rings out, and Kabir is found dead in his study, a bullet hole in his right temple, his right hand hanging limply by his side, with the gun lying underneath it on the floor, and his final Will burning in the dustbin. 
Suicide? Murder? The unintentional hilarity of the script begins with the arrival of the International Vigilance Squad hottie Sia (Kangana Ranaut), a character with keen eyes for detail and a severe allergy to wisdom. She finds absolutely no reason to take the four to the station and interrogate them. Everyone present at the crime scene is let off the island. Even OP, the corrupt politician who runs child sex rackets is allowed to go home to Bangkok.  Lo and behold, a rash of murders begins. And as the killer is unmasked at the end, the entire memory of the story seems to fade from one’s memory faster than Jr B’s career.

 As you can probably tell, ‘Game’ is riddled with cringe-inducing whodunit clichés and plotholes the size of Javed Akhtar’s oeuvre.  Writer AD Kaushal makes sure she portrays international police as earth-shatteringly stupid as possible – only at the climax does a character deduce that Kabir was left-handed, but was shot on the right side and hence was… murdered. No really, a whole unit of the esteemed, impeccably named International Vigilance Squad working on the case, cops who have made a thorough inspection of the crime scene with fingerprint scanners, green coloured laser examiners and all kinds of fancy techno gizmos, and not a single officer bothers to find out if the victim was right-handed. The butler and the secretary aren’t questioned either. And if all that weren’t silly enough, a character coolly escapes International Vigilance Squad’s surveillance by simply outrunning them in a lane – he also manages to shuttle between Mumbai, Turkey and Bangkok as he pleases, and even hacks into another country’s satellite television networks. There are many more ludicrous contrivances and hilarious plot devices which unfortunately can’t be discussed without giving away the mystery. The locations are inexplicable as well – what was the point of setting the film in London, Turkey, Bangkok, Greece etc? The same story could’ve been much more effective had it been set entirely in India. Even the unmotivated flashbacks featuring Ayesha are as dull as their tendency to feel unnatural. 

‘Game’ cribs elements from ‘Gumnam’ (which itself was a remake of ‘And then there were none’), Abbas Mustan’s ‘Race’ and every other Hollywood killer-thriller from the last few years. Actually, there is another movie that seems to provide even more inadvertent inspiration, but to name it would give away the ending - not that you couldn’t figure it out within 20 minutes. There is a tradition in such films where the detective always takes the time to explain exactly why the killer is doing all of these things, just to give the villain enough time to grab the gun or escape. This big speech in ‘Game’ is easily the dumbest, most deranged example of such that I have ever seen in all of my years of movie-watching. The seemingly airtight suspense is annihilated instantly with shabby dialogue, boorish performances and tedious music.

‘Game’ is shoddily structured and wholly derivative. It doesn’t cover any new ground in the thriller genre and, if anything, is a mere rehashing of tired story lines. How this story worked its way up to Excel Entertainment and got a green signal will probably be the first question on KBC’s new season. Bollywood really needs to climb out of this rut. Or retire. 

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