Game Night

      Annie (Rachel McAdams: Doctor Strange) and Max (Jason Bateman: Ozark) are avid competitors. They met as opposing team captains at a bar’s trivia night and have been dominating their couples’ game nights ever since. Each week they bring friends together to eat chips and suffer merciless beatings in party game play.

        The couple’s only problem is conceiving a child. The doctor informs them Max’s stress level is the culprit and advises avoiding unnecessary stress for the next few months.

       That’s just as Max’s brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler: Bloodline) has come back to town. Brooks is older, more successful, more charming and more than happy to undermine Max. Brooks moves in on Max and Annie’s beloved Game Night, promising a night of outrageous entertainment.

        At Brooks’ palatial home, he reveals the plan: Someone at the party will be kidnapped. The first person to find the victim wins Brooks’ Corvette Stingray.

Brooks has hired an acting troupe to help stage the kidnapping. But actual kidnappers beat the actors to the party, violently abducting Brooks as guests applaud the realism of the performance.

       Finally, Annie and Max realize the truth. Can the Game Night crew find Brooks and get him back unharmed? Or should they stick to charades?

       Funny, violent and completely off the wall, Game Night is a smart comedy for people with slightly sick senses of humor. The team who brought the world the Horrible Bosses series, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, have refined their style and their comic timing. The film is set up like pieces on a board game, with lots of clever game references.

        The writing is also sharp and full of surprises. Writer Mark Perez (Back Nine) makes the comedy biting and the jokes non-stop. Many comedies fail because they lack the courage of their convictions; Game Night goes for broke. The jokes are relentless, outrageous, often violent — and extremely funny.

        The impressive cast makes sure the jokes land. McAdams and Bateman are excellent comedians with great timing. But the standout is Jesse Plemons (No Activity). Playing a humorless cop desperate to be included in game night, he steals every scene. Dead-eyed, holding tight to a perky little Westie named Bastian and generally terrifying, Plemons is a treat.

        Despite extreme funniness, Game Night is not the film for all moviegoers. Its humor goes for the throat, using murders as a joke and not worrying about making characters likeable. If you’re in the mood for a no-holds-barred R-rated comedy, Game Night is a winner. 

Good Comedy • R • 100 mins. 

~~~ New this Week ~~~

Death Wish

       As a surgeon, Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is used to broken bodies. He spends his work life with victims of city violence, but crime has never touched him personally. That changes when his wife and daughter are brutally attacked by robbers. With the cops overworked and underpaid, Kersey listens in horror to the news that the assailants will probably get away with their crime.

       He takes to the streets to bring his own brand of justice to the world. As he cuts a bloody swath through the urban landscape, police and citizens divide over whether he’s a hero or a criminal. 

       A remake of the Charles Bronson carnage classic, this reissue may be the wrong movie for our time. We may be seeing enough of enraged men with guns without paying to watch Bruce Willis mow down people in poor neighborhoods for daring to attack the rich. 

Prospects: Dim • R • 107 mins.

Red Sparrow

       Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) is a sparrow, a Russian intelligence officer, trained in the arts of violence and seduction. Assigned to seduce the CIA’s Russia expert, she may not be fully committed to her task. Egorova was forced to join Russian intelligence as a child and wants out. 

       Can Egorova free herself? Or will she end up indentured to the American government?

       This is, in essence, the Marvel Black Widow movie Disney doesn’t want to make. Its hackneyed storyline, ridiculous spectrum of Russian accents and silly costuming make it a good target for sarcasm — but not at the price you’d pay for a ticket.

Prospects: Dim • R • 139 mins.