Funny Games (18)



Thriller (2007)
111mins US/Fr/Ger/Ita

Starring: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet
Director: Michael Haneke
Writer(s): Michael Haneke
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Anna, George and their young son Georgie arrive at their Long Island summer retreat. Father and son pursue the serious business of renovating the family's sailboat while Anna prepares lunch, only to be interrupted by Peter, who has been sent from next door for some eggs. The wife feels increasingly uncomfortable in the young man's presence and is glad when George and Georgie arrive, with Peter's friend Paul in tow. Anna's mounting dread is realized when Paul appears to make a veiled threat against the family.

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LondonNet Film Review by Kiernan Maletsky
Funny Games

Serial killer thriller Funny Games is unsettling because it quickly turns a critical eye onto its audience...

NAOMI WATTS, MICHAEL PITT and BRADY CORBET IN FUNNY GAMES DIRECTED BY MICHAEL HANEKE. Halcyon Pictures Ltd Oh you'll get the goods - cool-as-ice villains, nail-biting tension, Naomi Watts in her underwear - but you'll also get a question from Michael Pitt's Paul, the more talkative of the two murderers, who stares directly into the camera, directly at you, and asks you what you want.

Like all of his questions, he already knows the answer. You want him to stick around and slowly terrorize this family. You want it because you bought the ticket. The problem is the next step. Yes, there is too much violence in the media. Sex sells. We get it. We've heard it a thousand times before. But how do you negotiate a cycle where people will continue to consume it because it's there, and on the other side people will continue to make it because it's profitable? Director Michael Haneke never escapes this rodent-wheel to inspect the thing from afar, to find out why the wheel is there in the first place.

MICHAEL PITT AND DEVON GEARHART IN FUNNY GAMES DIRECTED BY MICHAEL HANEKE. Halcyon Pictures Ltd So it's condescending of Michael Haneke to stand on a haughty pillar, pointing down on us and accusing us of a dangerous fascination, especially as he's the one making this movie. Making it again, in fact: Funny Games is a scene-for-scene remake of his first 1999, German-language movie, also entitled Funny Games. He's profiting from a movie that presents itself as juicy entertainment. It's a satire, sure, but it's like a crooked cop, buying drugs from someone until it's no longer useful and then arresting him.

Still, it's a well-executed ruse - cleverly constructed and acted precisely on point. There is an interlude, where the villains have disappeared, and we are left with the mother and father, struggling to find an escape. The shots are stupefying and long and unsatisfying. The acting is unattractive and the movie grinds to a sputter, until we are practically rooting for the return of the white-clad baddies and their silver tongues. Clever.

Why make the exact same movie twice? Because the real finger-pointing is at Hollywood, the great Mecca of cheap thrills. Was it worth it? Maybe if Funny Games had something really profound to say.

- Kiernan Maletsky

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LondonNet Film Review by Jo Planter
Funny Games

Ignorance is bliss when it comes to Michael Haneke's contemporary update to his explosive 1997 film of the same name...

MICHAEL PITT and BRADY CORBET IN FUNNY GAMES DIRECTED BY MICHAEL HANEKE. Halcyon Pictures Ltd Remade virtually shot for shot, Funny Games is a violent and provocative thriller about a normal family facing the nightmare ordeal of a home invasion. The Austrian writer-director transplants the brutality from Europe to a picturesque lakeside home in Long Island, an ominously tranquil setting for the sadistic mind games that leave us teetering on the edge of our seats... so long as you haven't been scared witless by the original. The film's impact depends on the element of surprise.

Fans of the 1997 version will find this new Funny Games an almost pointless facsimile. There's a stronger female influence the second time around, with Naomi Watts's incendiary performance leaving screen husband Tim Roth firmly in the shadows, and an extended escape sequence. However, the change of setting doesn't spark any new narrative twists and the coup de grace with a television remote control will divide audiences as sharply today as it did some 10 years ago.

Anna (Watts), George (Roth) and their young son Georgie (Devon Gearheart) arrive at their summer retreat. Father and son continue to renovate the family's sailboat while Anna prepares lunch, only to be interrupted by Peter (Brady Corbet), who has been sent from next door for some eggs. The wife feels increasingly uncomfortable in the stranger's presence and is glad when George and Georgie arrive, with Peter's friend Paul (Michael Pitt) in tow.

MICHAEL PITT, NAOMI WATTS and BRADY CORBET STARRING IN 'FUNNY GAMES' DIRECTED BY MICHAEL HANEKE. Halcyon Pictures Ltd Anna's mounting dread is realized when Paul makes a thinly veiled threat against her loved ones. "Listen young man, I don't know what kind of game you're playing..." begins George, just as Paul raises a golf club and practices his swing on the older man's legs. Held hostage in their summer home at the mercy of the twisted duo, Anna, George and Georgie become pawns in the ultimate game of survival. "You bet that by 9 o'clock tomorrow you'll be alive and we bet you'll be dead," grins Paul.

Funny Games is horribly tense. Stomachs churn with each explosion of violence as the family tries valiantly to escape its predicament. Watts delivers a tour de force performance as the embattled mother, who risks her life to shield her family. The scene in which she wriggles free of her restraints and runs for help, shot in an agonizing single take, will have you biting your nails to the cuticle. Roth's father is disappointingly weak in comparison - it's little wonder Paul tells Georgie, "You see how your mummy fights for you? Your dad can learn something from her." Pitt and Corbet are deliciously evil in their roles as the hunters, who delight in goading their prey. Their motivation is never explained. Nothing is more chilling than the unknown.

- Kim Hu

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