Saturday, February 11, 2017

VOD debut: Present-day politics fuel Nicolas Pariser's political thriller, THE GREAT GAME

Filled with fairly interesting political scheming, lots of philosophizing (of course: It's French!) but damned few thrills, the new would-be political thriller, THE GREAT GAME (Le grand jeu) certainly boasts a first-class cast doing its best with second-rate material. Writer/director Nicolas Pariser (shown below) appears to be trying for something slow-burning and even elegant but instead comes up with merely slow and occasionally sloppy. "What's going on here and who is really pulling the strings?" are the most-asked questions as the story unfurls.

Eventually, however, you are more likely to decide, "What the hell: I don't care." Oh, there are some surprises along the way, and one would-be lulu at the very end. But so what? When the outcome is clearly predicated on the by-now rather tiresome (if true) idea that we can never really know what side people are on nor their motive for being there and consequently we must trust no one, our response is likely to be simply a shrug. Couple this to a filmic style that mistakes turtle-like pacing for sophistication, and you have the recipe for a great big yawn.

That fine, if wasted, cast includes leading man Melville Poupard (above) slipping ever more sexily and casually into middle age, and that grand old man of French cinema, André Dussollier (below, right), who once again proves expert at making us imagine we're onto something major when, in fact, his role turns out to be more minor than we'd have liked.

In the distaff side, we have two fine actresses: Sophie Cattani (of I'm Glad My Mother Is Alive), as the Poupard character's still-friendly ex, who brings wonderful immediacy and specificity to her role, and Clémence Poésy (below), as the new love interest that wife introduces to her ex.

The political philosophizing may be pertinent but it's not particularly succulent nor original -- action vs inaction, the past vs the present -- while the filmmaker fudges so many details in his attempt to make things mysterious that there is very few specifics onto which we can lay hold. Motive, in particular, has little place or weight.

All this makes the movie pretty disappointing, but at least it offers a relatively short running time (99 minutes). From Distrib Films US, The Great Game hits all major VOD platforms in the United States -- including iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Comcast, Charter, and Vudu -- this coming Tuesday, February 14. I would not, however, call it much of a choice for Valentine's Day.

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