Posts Tagged ‘naomi watts


Movie Review: Funny Games

Funny Games

“Straw Dogs” it ain’t.


Starring Tim Roth, Naomi Watts, Michael Pitt, and Brady Corbet. Written and Directed by Michael Haneke, based on his 1997 original movie of the same name.


All that information aside, let me spin this for ya quick:


Roth and Watts are the George and Ann Farber (IMDB cannot verify last name), your standard Northeastern couple planning on spending vacation time at their summer home with their son (Devon Gearhart). Trouble ensues when a young “neighbor” “Paul” (Michael Pitt) comes over to help put George’s boat in the water while his friend “Peter” (Brady Corbet) asks Ann for some eggs. When the two get together Ann tries throwing them out of the house. George goes to mediate and slaps Paul, who grabs one of George’s golf clubs and busts George’s left kneecap. Gathering the family in the living room, Paul and Peter inform them that they’re going to play games and that before 12 hours are over, all three will be dead.


What sounds good on paper and maybe intriguing in this review wound up failing in execution. While I cannot speak for the original German 1997 film (of which I have been informed that this is a shot-for-shot remake) I can say that this film does not translate to American culture. Two preppy-looking kids who don’t agree on what to call the other one (“Paul” calls “Peter” by the names of Tom and Tubby; “Peter” calls Paul by other names as well) having no clear backstory or motivation as to why they’re doing what they’re doing to their neighbors, whom we don’t have any other information on, either. Yes I understand “senseless” violence and the media propagation of it; I have seen “Natural Born Killers.” The violence in this movie borders on being like the torture porn of an Eli Roth movie, and excuse me for saying “that shit’s been played out.”


This IS one of those movies that at the midpoint you ask yourself, “Do I really want to watch the rest of this? Or do I just want to find out how it all ends?” Curiosity got to me and I had to stay until the end to find out what happens. The filmmaker seemed to have wanted a “documentary” ambivalence to events, showing what happens but not providing a feeling for what’s going on either way. Without a “message” (as programmed to our thinking) this comes off as being boring and useless.


Stylistically this film tries breaking against any sort of structure, save linear. There are moments where the camera just SITS; where the image stays on screen longer than it needs to be (and for what reason?) Conversely, there are times when the camera follows a character doing something mundane while something integral to the story happens BEHIND it, and we get back to the characters it happened to way after the fact. And if you haven’t heard it already, there is a point in which Watts’ character grabs a gun and blows a hole through Corbet. Pitt takes the gun, hits Watts, then finds a remote control and rewinds to moments before that just so things can go his way. And speaking of Pitt, he does a lot of talking directly to the camera, doing the “breaking the 4th wall” thing. Annoying.


What’s criminal of it all are the little hints and tidbits that this movie could’ve been so much better. The kids keeping the family hostage had killed other families and this could’ve been delved into. Watts goes for help and Roth says, “Forgive me.” We don’t know why (except that he’s apparently a bigger wuss than Dustin Hoffman in “Straw Dogs”) The film never runs out of questions, but it doesn’t care enough to give any answers.


I will however note the good points of the movie. When Georgie escapes to run and find help and when the guys leave after Georgie was shot, leaving Ann and George locked inside their own house. These are excellent moments of suspense, when you want to know if any of them will get out alive, if the killers will come back, etc.


Additional kudos goes to Naomi Watts for playing a character stronger than Roth. When your hands and feet have been bound by boxing tape and you’re only wearing a bra and panties, crying in front of the camera with 4 inches of snot coming out your nose, you madam are an ACTRESS, and have earned your pay. It didn’t hurt to be listed as an Exec Producer, either.


Finally, “Straw Dogs.” This movie, whether it likes it or not, is a blank-years late version of the controversial Peckinpah piece. If you’ve never seen the movie, here’s the rundown: a young American teacher (Hoffman) has an English wife and moves to the countryside. He’s a pacifist (the Vietnam War is going on) and is increasingly harassed by the local construction workers hired to work on his home. When they assault his home, he’s forced to take matters into his own hands. One of the greatest scenes in film history is the guy getting caught in a bear trap, but I may have said too much…


To end, I don’t recommend “Funny Games.” If you’re in the mood for a rental, I suggest “Straw Dogs,” it’s much better (and earlier) version. Sam Peckinpah (wherever he is) will thank you and is waiting for mano e mano combat with Mr. Haneke.


My grade: D