Ready Or Not: A Fun Comedy Thriller That Lacks A Good Set Of Teeth
Filmmaking duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gilett (Devil’s Due, Southbound) give “The Most Dangerous Game” a hefty dose of family dysfunction in their latest effort, Ready or Not. Filled with dark comedy, a bit of horror, and a few genuine surprises, this goofy genre mash-up delivers on crowd-pleasing fun, but it ultimately lacks the sharp teeth and nuance necessary to leave a lasting effect.
The film follows a young bride (Samara Weaving) as she joins her new husband's (Mark O'Brien) rich, eccentric family (Adam Brody, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell) in a time-honored tradition that turns into a lethal game with everyone fighting for their survival.
Next to Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Ready or Not probably has the best ending of any film so far this year. Unfortunately, it feels like a film that was designed around its hilariously explosive final moments, which requires a whole lot of exposition for it to fully land. It doesn’t really know what to do with itself at times, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have a bit a fun along the way — it’s just a pity that a majority of its surprises are spoiled by its trailer…
Its premise is a goofy as they come; A wealthy family, who amassed their massive fortune long ago through the mysteries of a strange traveler, must honor tradition by playing a game every time someone new enters their family’s “dominion” — the family’s preferred word. The game could be something archaic like Old Maid or Go Fish, or it could be something as seemingly innocent as the childhood classic Hide and Seek, which Grace, the family’s newest edition, played by the always charming Samara Weaving, just so happened to pick. While she initially believes the game to be childish fun, she quickly learns that her new family is playing for keeps — and to save their own skin from a bizarre family curse.
Though Ready or Not plays cutely with elements that have the makings of a sharp satire, at its core, it’s only interested in momentary fun. There’s nothing wrong necessarily with a film that prefers to stick largely to the surface, but it becomes problematic when its floundering for something to say causes it to lose sight of what exactly it’s taking satiric aim at. Much like the ammunition hung up in the family’s game room, the film’s political mechanisms are far from weaponized; they’re just for show. With only depthless and insignificant things to say about the rich, the film is reduced to a survival story, which manages to be fairly enjoyable thanks to Weaving’s charismatic performance.
In a film where a lot of its actors don’t always seem to know what kinda movie their in — I’m looking at you Andie MacDowell — Weaving always stays in tune and hoists the film up on a her all to capable shoulders. She’s pretty much the total package; she has broad comedic appeal, can swerve gracefully between silly and serious tones, and makes for a very likeable heroine. Her expressive qualities — particularly what she does with her eyes — help to earn her even more pathos from the audience, making her all the more easy to root for. But the real icing on the cake is that she looks just as good in a wedding dress as she does covered in blood.
On the performance front, Weaving is not alone, and receives some excellent support from Adam Brody, who gives his character a wonderful sense of comedic timing and provides a nice contrast between the rest of the over-the-top characters. Other performances of note are Henry Czerny and Nicky Guadagni who both play heavily into the more cartoony aspects of the film with effortless ease.
The cinematography can be just as murky as the narrative at times, which causes harsh shadows and muddled images; however, what it lacks in technical flair, it makes up for with its production and set design by Andrew M. Stearn and Mike Leandro. The Le Donas family estate in particular is a joy to take in, and it serves as nice eye candy while the film figures out how it wants to reach its dynamite ending. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett have the sense to lock compositions down at times, but more often than not, they abandoned more difficult technical maneuvers for the cheap handheld camera. This luckily doesn’t detract too much from the performances, but it also isn’t very motivated and doesn’t do much of anything to enhance the end results, which is essentially the film in a nutshell.
Despite some odd character turns, some off-key performances, and a confused script, Ready or Not manages to stretch its premise into amusing and entertaining territory, but it never really reaches the height of its true potential. Its cheeky, but not clever, and it doesn’t really put its foot on the gas until the very end. Still, not since Kill Bill has a bride been so war-torn and bloodied, and that’s something. It’s sure to give many a crowd-pleasing night out, but won’t go as hard or far for some.
Recommendation: Ready or Not delivers solid temporary fun and is best watched in a crowd, but isn’t likely to stick with you all that much after the credits roll.
Rating: 3 mean-mugging relatives outta 5.
What do you think? Did you have a blast with Ready or Not? Did you feel like it lacked a good set a teeth? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!