Game of Death sees Wesley Snipes’ final tinsel town outing before embarking on his three-year incarceration stint. Unfortunately he fails to impress with Game of Death, a film that doesn’t live up to the standards set by his previous appearances in high octane blockbusters such as Blade.
As lone gunslinger Marcus, Snipes enters the fray in typically action-filled style, immediately immersing the audience in an intricate undercover assassination. Unfortunately, this swift introduction to Marcus’s world proves to be a false dawn as the action fades into oblivion with a weak plot and an unimaginative script which only allows for two dimensional characters.
Marcus recounts his latest mission where he is ordered to infiltrate arms dealer Frank Smith (Robert Davi)’s inner-circle as his bodyguard, to then go on to eliminate both Smith and his financier, Redvale (Quinn Duffy). As his beleaguered back-up team betray Marcus and Smith is incapacitated he must fight to protect Smith and prevent rogue agents Zander (Gary Daniels) and Floria (Zoe Bell) from reaching Redvale and his millions.
Following an inconveniently timed heart attack of his client, Marcus has to transport the ailing Smith to the local hospital whilst coming under siege from his former colleagues. As his attending doctor (Anjanue Ellis) fights to keep Smith alive, Marcus must hunt down and kill the swarm of hired mercenaries who have taken over the deserted hospital wing.
The cocksure Snipes of his heyday is sadly missing in Game of Death, with a script as thin in character development as it is leading quality. With the opening mission being as far back as the characters’s stories stretch, it is hard for the audience to feel any kind of emotion or support towards Marcus.
The supporting cast struggle to flesh out their roles; notably Daniels is wooden as the evil Zander who merely portrays the evil mercenary to the supposedly moral assassin Marcus. With little more than money given as Zander’s motive, the characters feel like a lazy choice of cops and robbers, the generic battle of good and bad.
However, in the absence of characters with which the audience can empathise, the careful building of suspense as well as aesthetically-pleasing fight scenes go some way toward mitgating the film for its ills but even in these cases the film struggles on both fronts. The fight scenes, though well choreographed, are over quicker than they begin and sometimes leave the audience far from gripped, with many involving more dialogue than fisticuffs (such as a coma-inducing five-minute shooting scene in a stairwell).
The direction feels forced, interweaving artistic flourishes which would work well if used sparingly at pivotal moments. Giorgio Serafini saturates the already struggling film, resulting in a forgettable feature which is surely destined for the bargain bin.
Best scene: When Marcus finds himself in a mental health ward with various patients trying to engage him in surreal conversations.
Best performance: Aunjanue Ellis.
Best line: As Marcus waves the mental health patients against a door – ‘We play the door game now’.
Watch this if you liked: Crank, Outlaw