‘Survive the Game’ Review: A Lethal Stand-Off in the Farm

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There is no doubt that Bruce Willis is one of the iconic action stars in Hollywood. Despite age trying to catch up with him, this superstar shows no signs of slowing down and has released a series of titles in 2020 and 2021. His latest action flick, ‘Survive the Game’, premiered in theatres on October 8 and is available on Apple TV and to rent on October 8 and on Blu-ray and DVD on October 12. James Cullen Bressack directs this feature from a script Ross Peacock penned. Other cast members include Chad Michael Murray, Sarah Roemer, Donna D’Errico, Zack Ward, Sean Kanan, Kate Katzman, Swen Temmel, and Michael Sirow.

The movie is basically a cop flick where two police officers, David, played by Willis and Cal, a role by Temmel, land every cop’s coveted chance to nab a notorious drug trafficking cartel they have been pursuing without success for a long time.

Unfortunately, the drug bust goes haywire, and David gets shot. However, the mission is too important to let the chance to bring in the most troublesome criminals in the city slip away, so Cal decides to chase after the peddlers before they get away. They all end up on a remote farm owned by a troubled military veteran, Eric, embodied by Murray, who together forms an unusual alliance. Before they figure out how to hold their stand, more gang members show up accompanied by an injured David. Now surrounded and outnumbered, the trio must use stealth, smarts, and their marksman skills to bring the drug dealing mob to their knees.

Bruce Willis has had a lucrative career as a butt-kicking action star from his days in the ‘Die-Hard’ Franchise. Fans are fond of his movies, and he’s celebrated as one of the greatest actors in the genre. However, as age catches up with him, he can’t quite move the way he used to, and he seems to be losing his flair as the projects he has been landing latest aren’t the Box office kind of titles. Take ‘Out of Death,’ or ‘Midnight in the Switchgrass’ for instance. Either he’s picking the wrong projects, or maybe it’s time to wrap it up.

Looking at the plot, it simply centers around a drug bust gone south that pits a detective duo and an ex-soldier against a squad of criminals. There isn’t much meat to the story, twists and turns or unanticipated events. Other than just a few expository details regarding one or two characters, there is nothing more.

Compared to other well-done detective features where the lead characters are as smart and stealthy as can be as they need to outwit the bad guys, this seems to have deployed rookie detectives on a high profile highly dangerous mission. It is really awful how the movie starts. The lead cops are charging in mindlessly on a drug deal simply because David has been trying to capture the criminals forever, and now it is about time they did things differently. While lying in wait, one of the two accidentally knocks over a flowerpot that attracts the bad guy’s attention and blows their cover. Rather than staying hidden, David, the macho man, steps out in the open this is actually how he gets shot in the stomach; fortunately, he lives for the final showdown.

The movie kind of sounds like a copy and paste scenario from various movies whether recently made or in the past. For instance, Willis and Murray co-starred in another similar flick titled ‘Survive the Night’ released in 2020, which wasn’t so good. There is also some uncanny resemblance in the posters of both films. This simply tells the audience there isn’t really anything new to be expected from this title as well. 

The villains, too, don’t try to be distinct as they include the unpleasant couple Mickey and Violet, played by Zack Ward and Kate Katzman. The latter tries too hard to look like the infamous DC antihero Harley Quinn right from the blonde hair to the dramatic makeup, the mannerisms, the costumes; all these are clear-cut cosplay. One henchman sports a Mohawk and a green jacket, obviously drawing comparisons to Robert De Niro’s character in ‘Taxi Driver.’ But all this trying to pass for other iconic characters is pretty entertaining to watch and gives one something to judge based on the original. 

Besides the cosplay, characters in ‘Survive the Game’ constantly make threats or align themselves around the remote farmhouse where everyone ends both the hunter and the hunted, and it soon becomes a cat and mouse game. This establishment belongs to Murray’s character Eric who is in immense pain after losing his family in a car accident. He’s now hopeless and alone with nothing to lose. Once all the crazy happenings turn up to his door, he isn’t afraid of getting hurt or even dying as all he wants is to protect the only thing he’s got left, and that’s his home.

The dialogue isn’t the best part of this narrative. The few weighty lines can’t hold any water, and the rest is presented in an unconvincing manner. One doesn’t feel impacted by what the characters say alone. There are those movies that what the hero or villain says alone sends chills down one’s spine before they even do anything. A great example would be Liam Neeson’s line ‘I will find you, and I will kill you,’ from the ‘Taken’ saga.

What lacks in the dialogue is slightly compensated for in the action sequences. Although these feel a bit repetitive at some point, they at least keep this feature afloat. One notable instance to note is the hand-on-hand combat shot from the inside of a car while another character is knocked up unconscious, showing off some great creativity from Bressack. 

Bruce’s performance isn’t what Bruce is known for, as despite delivering a laid-off performance, he is still embroiled in the chaos and gets to insult the mob boss. However, it isn’t the worst performance in his most recent projects. Other actors, too, give just okay performances, which will probably be forgotten once one sees the movie.

Overall, ‘Survive the Game’ isn’t the best detective movie out there. It lacks originality, there is no depth to the storyline, the plot is illogical, the acting isn’t the best, the shots aren’t flattering it’s packed with allusions and copycats. One would probably watch this title to point out the numerous flaws, but in terms of spending time on quality, well-done action flick, this one is a definite waste of valuable time.

SCORE: 4/10

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