Dangerous Game: The Legacy Murders, sounds like the title of a Lifetime Network original thriller. The plot, which involves a rich man’s family forced to play a murderous board game on his birthday sounds made for cable as well. But surprisingly it’s a theatrical release from Paramount. Does it have an ace up its sleeve to help justify getting that kind of treatment?
Ellison Betts (Jon Voight, The Manchurian Candidate, Bratz) made a fortune in the pharmaceutical industry. According to him, his son Kyle (Jonathan Rhys-Meyer, Yakuza Princess, The 12th Man) forced him out of the company in a power play. If you ask Kyle he rescued the company from mismanagement. Either way, it created a rift in the family.
But now that’s been put aside as Kyle and his fiance Joy (Skyler Shaye, Baby Geniuses and the Space Baby, Deadly Lessons) have been invited back to the island to join Ellison and his assistant Burnham (Bradley Stryker, Devil in Ohio, Cold Pursuit) for the patriarch’s birthday. Also invited are his brother Alec (Will Sasso, Boss Level, Night of the Animated Dead), his wife Marie (Laura Mennell, Hard Ride To Hell, Watchmen) daughter Livie (Megan Charpentier, It, Resident Evil: Retribution) his son Cameron (Dylan Playfair, Grave Encounters 2, It Stains the Sands Red), and his girlfriend, Tara (Kaya Coleman, Come True, Resurrecting the Champ).
Director Sean McNamara (Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite, Sister Swap: A Hometown Holiday) and writer Brian Buccellato (Kevin Hart: What Now?, The Firing Squad) introduce all these characters with a maximum of nastiness and bickering to make sure we get the point that this is a dysfunctional family. There’s also mention of a sister Virginia (Barbara Beall, Hipster Horror House, The 100) who couldn’t attend which adds to that feeling.
Eventually, after someone has stuffed a cat into a garbage disposal as a random bit of sadism, Dangerous Game: The Legacy Murders gets down to business. The house goes into lockdown mode and a voice tells them they all get to play a game, not playing isn’t an option. When somebody tests that rule they get their feet mangled by a cartoonish explosion.
Dangerous Game: The Legacy Murders is a cross between the Old Dark House films pitting would-be heirs against each other with elements of Clue, Saw, and the recent spate of escape room-themed thrillers. It all has to do with a ridiculous family tradition involving inheritances that turns into a bad mashup of Knives Out and Ready or Not with a touch of The Legacy and Bay of Blood.
Unfortunately, the film is so full of such unlikeable and undeveloped characters that it’s hard to care if any of them survive or feel anything but relief when death saves us from having to listen to them. Unsurprisingly the closest thing in the film to sympathetic characters meets the nastiest fate, in particular, the one carved up in a grotesque version of Operation. Others get taken out via gas, gunshot, broiled alive, etc.
Sadly Dangerous Game doesn’t even work as a mystery. The person behind it is obvious and the twist it tries to throw out at the end is fairly easy to guess from shortly before the halfway mark. And the shocking family secrets that get revealed? Neither shocking nor original. If you’re into torture porn you may get some fun out of this, most others will just be bored.
With a cast like this, one would at least expect the acting to be solid, but Dangerous Game disappoints there as well. Voight gives such a cartoonish performance I can see why he traded acting in to become a full-time Twitter troll. And judging from her performance, Shaye got her part because she’s Voight’s granddaughter. Even Rhys-Meyer, who’s usually a solid actor even in films lackluster films like The Good Neighbor can’t rise above bland here.
What does Dangerous Game: The Legacy Murders get right? Damn little apart from a few well-done effects. It’s a miserable little film that makes sadism boring and ninety minutes seem like an eternity.
Paramount has released Dangerous Game: The Legacy Murders in selected theatres and on VOD and Digital platforms. Just remember, unlike the characters in the film, you have the option not to play. And if you want a suggestion for something better, FilmTagger can suggest some titles.