Funny Games (2008)

Genre(s): Crime / Drama / Horror / Thriller
Warner Brothers || R - 112 minutes - $27.98 || June 10, 2008
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2008-06-12


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Michael Haneke
Writer(s): Michael Haneke (written by)
Cast: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet


Theatrical Release Date: March 14, 2008


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
    None


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (1.85), Full Screen (1.33)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

Funny Games is a remake of the 1997 same-titled movie, both written and directed by Michael Haneke. The film has been heralded as “terrifying” and “profoundly disturbing”, and indeed it was, for the first 45 minutes or so, after which this suspense thriller devolves into a boring and, worse yet, pretentious movie with a message -- and in case you didn’t catch it, two characters do spell it out towards the end. Don’t get me wrong, what Haneke tries to tell the audience is valid especially in a culture that seeks out exploitive violence in films like Saw and Hostel (not to mention the violence on television), but at the same time, that doesn’t negate the fact that the film just didn’t play well.

Funny Games stars Tim Roth and Naomi Watts as George and Anne Farber, a good-looking couple with a nice son and living the good life in a vacation home by the harbor. They have a loyal dog and a fine sailboat; things could not get better... until one day they meet two strangers (played by Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet). After some wordplay between Anne and one of the boys, things take a turn and escalate into tension and terror as the guys take the family hostage and begin a game: “You bet that you’ll be alive tomorrow at 9:00, and we bet that you’ll be dead, OK?” And so let the “games” begin.

Haneke’s slow, deliberate direction was fascinating, staying on shots or scenes for five, ten minutes at a time with no cuts, most of the time with actions or dialogue happening off screen (including the violence which thus expands on the “message” of violence). Some might find this kind of style pretentious in itself, but I kind of admire it for its patience as it builds the uneasiness with each incremental minute. However, that only can work for some time, until things just either get tiresome or, dare I say, boring.

Yes, perhaps that was yet another one of Haneke’s points, to draw out the audience who expected to come into a festival of blood, carnage and horror and instead find drawn out scenes with none of that. I can’t really fault him for that and, as I stated, the significance is legitimate, yet I’d rather watch a Nightline or CNN story about America’s thirst for violence than this.

As much as I love movies of all sorts, I also get more than a little annoyed when Hollywood steps in with their own finger pointing. Is this a nation of gore? Yes. Is it out of control? I’d argue it is. Who is to blame? Sure, if people didn’t go see Saw VII, they’d stop making more. But is it not “they” who are peddling the violence? The same “they” who released this film as well? Is it some sort of penance for their guilt? But even so, I don’t want nor need to sit for nearly two hours and be lectured at, something I find even more annoying about some Hollywood films.

The slight ranting aside, Funny Games has style and a solid lead with the lovely Ms. Naomi Watts (who also served as executive producer). Even with all (well, actually, most) the violence taking place off screen, the emotional strain on the cast and Watts was tremendous, and she gives it her all, as she continually does in all her films (good and bad). I suppose the same could be said for the underexposed Tim Roth as well, though the film does belong to Watts. It’s a shame it was all wasted with such pretentious and, at times, self-indulgent material.

Wrapping things up, I think David Edelstein of the New York Magazine quantifies my feelings: “Haneke’s assault on our fantasy lives is shallow, unimaginative, and glacially unengaged -- a sucker punch without the redeeming passion of punk.”



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Either because Haneke didn’t want features to explain how awesome his message movie was or since Funny Games didn’t make money at the box office, Warner doesn’t bother providing any features. There are some trailers for other Warner films (including The Lost Boys: The Tribe).



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

The movie is presented in anamorphic widescreen with an OAR of 1.85:1. It looks fairly clean and since it’s fairly dark (a good portion seems to take place at night), I didn’t notice much grain, dust marks or scratches. And though there are no features, Warner has kindly also placed the full screen version on the flip side of the disc. Nice.

The only audio option is a standard Dolby 5.1 track that gets a light workout during some choice heavy metal music at the beginning and end, but everything in between is all dialogue.



.::OVERALL::.

Writer/director Haneke’s point is valid but if there’s something I hate more than Hollywood pretentiousness it’s being lectured at. Yes, the visuals are good and the performances are all well done, but it’s all for not. Funny Games is an irritating film rather than powerful and unique.