Ron Perlman has carved out a nice little niche for himself. His booming voice commands respect, but he’s not afraid to get campy at all hours of the day. If you absolutely need another fix, look no further than This Game’s Called Murder.
When a film opens up with a male model getting pelted with heels from a cannon until he bleeds, you know you’re in for a ride. It’s a metaphor for pretty much everything This Game’s Called Murder is about: excess. Perlman is Mr. Wallendorf, a high-heel mogul who is at odds with his daughter.
The title comes from the “games” that Wallendorf plays with his victims, which has become a sadistic family tradition. I’m kind of digging this “crazy family murder games” subgenre that’s making a comeback. Ready or Not was a delight a few years back, and films like Stoker definitely fall into that same purview. This Game’s Called Murder is easily less serious than pretty much every similar project though, and it’s rolling in camp and ultra-violence. Perlman is constantly chewing the scenery, going off on crazy tangents and doing something with a prop: amid imposing sets and scenery.
The rest of the cast (particularly Vanessa Marano, who plays Jennifer, Wallendorf’s daughter), is trying to meet that same level of energy, but it doesn’t come as easy. The characters are…a bit much at times. They’re so dialed-up that they start to become caricatures, and as time passes it becomes more noticeable. The costume department is working overtime though, adding a degree of charm that supersedes those portrayals. Every “faction” has its own outfit, with Jennifer straddling both (she wears the heels, but has her own rise up Joker thing going on).
“This Game’s Called Murder is easily less serious than pretty much every similar project though, and it’s rolling in camp and ultra-violence.”
The narrative touches on many concepts: mostly classism and excess (of varying degrees). But they’re juxtaposed in equally absurd ways, with the have-nots portrayed as a gang that wouldn’t feel out of place working for The Joker, and the haves…well, we touched on Perlman already.
The gang is set up to be formidable early on as one of the members kills what is essentially a professional wrestler with speed and grace, but the constant jump cuts in the action betray the scene. Wallendorf and company get plenty of chances to shine as a monstrous entity, sometimes with pointless interludes that ask us to invest in a ramen-noodle-truck-stashed-with-gold subplot that’s secondary to the character interactions and conflicts.
This Game’s Called Murder could have stood for some cuts in the script to tell a more streamlined version with fewer people involved. I can see what they’re trying to do, and it is fun to watch some of the craziness play out, but sometimes that insanity is more of a series of sketches than a cohesive idea (including a cheating subplot at the tail-end).
At one point in the film, Ron Perlman’s character says, “you got cereal in your hair…what’s that all about?” in a rich Texan accent. At its worst, This Game’s Called Murder is interesting. It’s a pastiche of many genre films before it, mish mashing a bunch of things into a cocktail that looks bold but can go down bland.