Adam Sherman (Wristcutters: A Love Story, She’s Just A Shadow) takes on the world of fashion, conventional filmmaking and reality as we know it with his latest release, This Game’s Called Murder. Can this hyper violent and darkly comedic thriller flaunt all of that and still be coherent enough to be entertaining?
Mr. Wallendorf (Ron Perlman, Hell on the Border, Hellboy) has made a fortune in the shoe business. Today, along with Mrs. Wallendorf (Natasha Henstridge, Ghosts of Mars, Species) he’s shooting a new commercial for his iconic red pumps. It involves scantily clad women shooting shoes out of a cannon at a flexing fitness model until he’s incoherent and bleeding on the floor. At which point Mr. Wallendorf shoots him in the head. For real.
Missing from this family event is their daughter Jennifer (Vanessa Marano, The Dead Girls Detective Agency, Switched at Birth). Despite her status as an uber wealthy social media influencer nobody can find her. Which is just how she wants it, she doesn’t need any interruptions as she tries to bring down her parent’s empire.
Sherman and cinematographer David Newbert (Willy’s Wonderland, Verotika) give This Game’s Called Murder a highly stylized look that’s apparent right from the start. It matches the world the script is set in, one that’s more closely related to a comic book than the one we live in. The Wallendorfs could easily have stepped out of a Batman storyline, insanely wealthy and evil to the core.
Even Jennifer isn’t immune, her gang has no problems killing her father’s employees in cold blood. And, if it means more likes and followers, she and boyfriend Cane (James Lastovic, Days of Our Lives) are quite happy to take a baseball bat to a restaurant employee who objects to them doing a dine and dash. This Game’s Called Murder is set in a world The Joker and Harley Quinn would be right at home in.
But for all its visual style and quirky elements like the magic mirror that reminds Mrs. Wallendorf that “Murder is always Plan A.” the film feels empty. Yes it’s funny in places but This Game’s Called Murder is supposed to be a thriller and there are precious few thrills. Primarily because, as is the case with so many of these films, there’s nobody to give a damn about.
Everyone in This Game’s Called Murder is a psychopath, and watching a bunch of insanely rich assholes backstab each other isn’t particularly thrilling because I don’t care who ends up dead. The fact that everyone is also an over the top caricature doesn’t help matters either. Even in a film that wants to be a live action comic book there has to be, if not an actual hero, someone who can pass for an actual human being, something the best comic writers learned a long time ago.
If Sherman had put half as much effort into the film’s script as he did its look this could have been a potential cult film. Its outrageous characters and violence were certainly intended to get it that status, but the lack of anyone to care about and a script that’s too out of control defeat it. Instead despite being beautiful to look at and occasionally funny, This Game’s Called Murder ultimately fails to be anything more than another exercise in style over substance.
This Game’s Called Murder will open on VOD/Digital platforms through levelFILM on December 3 in Canada. In the US it opens the same day in theaters and on VOD from Cranked Up Films. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more details.