Survive the Game is the fourth Bruce Willis film I’ve reviewed this year. The first three, Cosmic Sin, Midnight in the Switchgrass and Out of Death weren’t exactly great. Only Midnight in the Switchgrass which Willis was barely in could be called good. Cosmic Sin on the other hand was one of the worst things I’ve seen in the past coup[le of years. Can he turn things around and end the year on at least a somewhat better note?
A drug bust gone bad leaves David (Bruce Willis, Die Hard) wounded and partner Cal (Swen Temmel, Breach, Boss Level) in pursuit of Violet (Kate Katzman, Walt Before Mickey) and her boyfriend (Zack Ward, Z Nation, Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys) who is listed as Jean in the credits and Mickey on IMDB. A pursuit that ends at a farm belonging to Eric (Chad Michael Murray, Riverdale, Camp Cold Brook) a disturbed veteran who recently lost his family in a car accident.
Eric and Cal are forced to put up with each other in order to survive. That’s complicated by the arrival of the rest of the gang. David also arrives, but it’s as their captive. Can they rescue him and get out alive before the gang’s big boss Michael (Kristos Andrews, The Bay) arrives?
Veteran director James Cullen Bressack (Blood Craft, Beyond the Law) and first-time feature writer Ross Peacock serve up a fairly basic good guys versus bad guys plot comprised of bits and pieces from other, mostly better films. And, apart from Violet and Mickey who are an embarrassingly badly written rip-off of Natural Born Killers’ Mickey and Mallory, they do a fairly good job of stitching the elements together.
While it still has way more talk than action, something to be expected in films like this, Survive the Game, (not to be confused with Survive the Night which also co-starred Willis and Chad Michael Murray, or Ice-T’s Surviving the Game for that matter), does do a good job of milking the endless scenes of the gang stalking Cal through the overgrown remains of Eric’s farm for suspense, even if the outcome is never in question. Bressack also manages to stage some nicely shot fight scenes that help elevate it above lots of similar low-budget action thrillers.
On the other hand, Survive the Game’s car chases are very unconvincing, they look more like the product of camera trickery than a couple of good stunt drivers. There are also all the usual issues, villains who talk instead of just pulling the trigger, or wait until they’re close enough to be disarmed before taking a shot. And, while he’s certainly in better shape than Segal, Willis isn’t Stallone and doesn’t look overly convincing beating up guys half his age.
Thankfully he spends much of the film tied to a chair leaving most of Survive the Game’s action scenes to the supporting cast which includes Donna D’Errico (Baywatch, Escape from Area 51), Canyon Prince (Battle Star Wars, Run Like Hell) who gets laughs as an overly sensitive goon and Michael Sirow (Wrong Place, Fortress).
A better-than-average formula thriller, Survive the Game manages to deliver more than the usual amount of action and ends with a fairly impressive final act that even includes a non-CGI explosion. It won’t go down as one of the highlights of Willis’s career, but it’s not the embarrassment many of his recent films have been either.
Survive the Game will be available in Select Theaters and On Demand on October 8th. Blu-rays and DVDs will arrive on October 12th from Lionsgate. You can check their website for details.