4/20/12

Hey, Girl. Hauer You Doin'?: Surviving the Game (1994)

Survival, it's for the fittest they say, and no where has this been more frequently illustrated then in the myriad of retellings of 'The Most Dangerous Game'. There have been countless film versions of the classic 1924 tale such as Woman Hunt, Bloodlust!, and Hard Target just to name a few among hundreds if not thousands. Today, I'm taking a look at Rutger getting his hunt on in Ernest R. Dickerson's Surviving the Game. Unlike the past two features in Hey, Girl. Hauer You Doin'?, New World Disorder and Ladyhawke, this one finds Rutger in the role of the bad guy as he pairs up with Charles F. Dutton to hunt Ice-T. Not only is Hauer on the opposite side of the law, dare I say, he doesn't appear quite as dashing as normal. With  his straggly whiskers and shoulder length hair, he looks a bit like Colonel Sanders' L.A cousin who favors ill fitting suits in the office, but on the weekend, breaks out the camo hunting gear for a little homeless hunting.


As Surviving the Game opens, the action is split between a group of hunters in the woods chasing a man, and introducing the audience to our hero, Mason (Ice-T), and his type of survival. While the homeless Mason digs through garbage cans looking for a bite to eat, out in the woods, the hunt ends with deadly results. Mason is man who has lost it all, and then we watch him lose the little that's left. After his dog gets hit by a car and his pal, a cranky WWII vet, dies, Mason just wants to end it all. Walter Cole (Charles F. Dutton) saves Mason from being hit by a truck, the homeless man accepts Cole's offer to meet with his business parter about becoming a wilderness guide. Cole's partner, Burns (Hauer) talks Mason into taking the job, and soon they're off to a secluded canyon in Oregon. After a very strange dinner with the other hunters, CIA shrink (Gary Busey), grieving husband (John C. McGinley), and father and son pair (F. Murray Abraham and William McNamara), Mason awakes to find out that the intended quarry isn't wildlife at all.

Hugs from Busey are not the most gentle.
That's right. This is a movie where Roy from Bladerunner, Ghandi, the jerky doctor from Scrubs, Buddy Holly, and Roc chase down a future Law & Order star and groundbreaking gangsta rapper. Plus, all of this happens under the careful gaze of the director of Juice and Demon Knight, two of my personal favorite films. The cast and crew involved in Surviving the Game are reason enough to give this flick a watch, and better yet, there are a few more decent reasons to give it a go. Dickerson doesn't dwell on the films set up for very long and gets right to the action. The only lengthy period of dialog comes at the dinner before the hunt, and it's so heavily dominated by Gary Busey that time really flies. He spins a story about a rite of passage into manhood which must be heard to be believed, and even when heard, it's a little hard to believe the crazy eyed actor is running dialog and not telling a real story of his upbringing.

The Mason Jar in question.
While Ice-T handles the action portions of the film with great style, his acting is probably the most shaky though he is given the only heavily emotional moments to play. My real criticism of Ice-T's character isn't even his fault at all. I thought the name Mason seemed odd for the character, but, when it was revealed that the hunters kept their prey's head in trophy jars and there was a long lingering shot of a jar that said Mason on it..... a Mason jar, I shook my head for a full two minutes in disbelief of that terrible and intentional gag. Charles Dutton's nice guy charm is put to good use as the hunter's prey finder, and when he turns the bad on, there's a great gleeful glimmer in his eyes. Scrubs' John McGinley has a couple of great scenes, but sadly his character was put to abrupt a resolution. The same can be said of Gary Busey, but his throw down with Ice-T is worth the price of admission to hear him spout Busey-isms as they rumble. F. Murray Abraham is the least fun to watch, but I got drawn into his story because his movie son, William McNamara, is one of the only actors I've ever ever soon filming a movie when I saw him do part of a stunt for Chasers (1994) while on vacation in Myrtle Beach.

Hauer hopes this gets a good Bugg Rating.
Of course, I didn't come here to talk about called Oscar winners, sitcom actors, or whatever Gary Busey is classified (diagnosed?) as these days. We came here to talk about about Rutger. Mr. Hauer is delightfully evil, and he's a lot of fun to watch anytime he's onscreen. Surviving the Game might have given top billing to Ice-T for his heroic role, but the real star is Hauer. As he slimes his way through the flick, and there's really no other way to put it, he delights with witty banter with Ice, some movie badassary, and possibly the worst comfort for the dying that there's ever been. He also, and I won't spoil  why, gets to have an action sequence while dressed as a priest, and that scene near the film's end makes for a satisfying conclusion. Overall, while Hauer can play a baddie with the best of them, there's something about him as a hero I just enjoy more.

"I said it would be nice to have some Iced Tea out here. Not
I'd like to hunt Ice-T out here."
I didn't have much to say about director Ernest Dickerson, and I have to admit that while I like many of his other firms very much, this barely rates above a made for TV level effort. If it wasn't for the stacked cast and classic, easy to tell storyline, Surviving the Game wouldn't survive many viewings. The film contains some quality action scenes, but it is an editing nightmare with even a lazy eyed viewer picking up characters in the background of scenes after that are supposed to be dead. Sadly, this doesn't hint to a zombie subplot, but rather to the subbasement production values that haunt the whole film. Thankfully, for most of the film's running time, the actors seems to have free reign over how far over-the-top with their acting they go, and the combination of the manic styles and sloppy production gives the film a real seat of the pants type of feeling. It also makes it a quality slice of cult cinema. Surviving the Game is not going to be for everyone. Not all Hauer fans or action junkies are even likely to enjoy, but if you can accept the movie, warts and all, it's a really good time. However, I think many of you out there who are loyal Lair-ers will do a better than surviving this game; you'll feel like you've won.

Bugg Rating

3 comments:

  1. one of my favorite lo budget action films

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  2. Simply run the ignition wire into the gas tank of Charles S. Dutton's ATV and run like hell, making as much noise as possible. Who says you have to be licensed to perform a double amputation.

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  3. LOVE THIS MOVIE! SUch an unfairly good cast, all of whom, as you say, get free reign to unleash the crazy. Pure joy.

    ReplyDelete

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