Funny Games Review

by Steve Rhodes (steve DOT rhodes AT internetreviews DOT com)
March 13th, 2008

A film review by Steve Rhodes
Copyright 2008 Steve Rhodes

RATING (0 TO ****): *** 1/2

FUNNY GAMES makes a very effective argument for the importance of keeping landline phones and guns in your house and never trusting strangers, especially overly polite ones. A chillingly effective thriller, it is likely to leave you edgy for quite some time after you see it, since, unlike some cheesy horror flick, this movie is quite realistic. It's easy and natural to think that "There but for the grace go I," after watching these victims being attacked.

By writer and director Michael Haneke, FUNNY GAMES is said to be almost a shot-by-shot remake of his Austrian movie from a decade ago. Starring Naomi Watts and Tim Roth as a terrorized couple, the movie surprises us in ways we don't see coming. Most movie-goers have seen enough movies to reasonably predict the limits of what screenwriters will allow to happen. (I'm not talking about levels of violence but about certain assumptions viewers have about how plots will develop.) This movie manages to shatter some of our preconceived notions of what will happen next in a story.

When we meet Anna and George Farber (Watts and Roth), they are a wealthy couple off to stay in their big vacation home. The lake, where their house is situated, is surrounded by other mansions, all remote and gated. Who wouldn't feel safe behind large locked gates? Accompanying Anna and George is their son Georgie (Devon Gearhart) and their friendly dog. You can guess who'll die first. The rest of the narrative will prove much less

Just after Farber family's arrival, Paul (Michael Pitt) and Peter (Brady Corbet), two excessively polite college-age kids drop by. The kids are dressed almost exclusively in tennis whites and wearing white gloves -- because of eczema, they explain. They are staying with the Farber's next door neighbor who has sent them to borrow some eggs.

In no time, the Farber family is being forced to play games with Paul and Peter with the prize being the Farber's lives. Slow and sadistic, the movie keeps the chills going up and down your spine. The killers make a bet with the Farbers, who try their best not to play the games, and directly with the audience. If the Farbers can stay alive for the next twelve hours, they will win.

Pitt and Corbet are absolutely frightening as kids who live for their psychotic kicks and their politeness games. And Watts, Roth and Gearhart give a perfect reading of a family fearing that they may not live to see another day.

Make sure you turn all of the lights on in your house after you see the movie. And, whatever you do, don't trust anyone who drops by for a favor.
FUNNY GAMES runs 1:52. It is rated R for "terror, violence and some language" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.

The film opens nationwide in the United States on Friday, March 14, 2008. In the Silicon Valley, it will be showing at the AMC theaters, the Century theaters and the Camera Cinemas.

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