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Movies From the Black Lagoon: Surviving the Game
Movies From the Black Lagoon
Surviving the Game - 1994, Rated R
This umpteenth retelling of Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game" finds a homeless man running for his life from a hunting party comprised of the idle rich who have paid $50,000 for the privilege to stalk and kill a fellow human being.
There have been many films that tell this sort of story (including John Woo's "Hard Target" which premiered the previous year and also focused on a small business that profited from setting up and guiding the contests) but this one earns points for gathering a great cast, which sells this old tale so well that it doesn't seem as familiar as it should.
Ice T stars as a down on his luck mechanic named Mason who has lost his family and is now homeless. We meet him at a true low point that finds him losing his dog and best friend in the same week. Just as he's about to end it all by stepping in front of a Mac Truck he's saved by a food shelter volunteer named Cole.
This actually turns out to be a bad thing as Cole is actually the front man for a hunting service that provides human prey for parties of over paid psychos.
Mason takes up Cole on a job offer that sounds too good to be true. Spend a week at a cabin in the woods of the Pacific North West and look after the needs of a hunting party-the part that Cole leaves out is that this group has some sick needs but the dire straits that Mason finds himself in make it plausible that he wouldn't look this gift horse in the mouth.
An excellent scene follows where Mason meets the group which includes Cole's partner, Burns, and their clients: a father and son pair of Wall Street Wolves, a truly disturbed C.I.A. psychiatrist, and a depressed businessman who has picked the wrong venue to work out his problems following the murder of his daughter by an unknown assailant. They enjoy a slaughtered hog for supper and take the opportunity to grill Mason before springing it on him that he will be their sport for the weekend.
The rest of the film is a series of escapes and counter attacks as Mason turns out to be a resourceful mechanic who can hot wire motorcycles to explode while turning the tables on his pursuers. It all leads to several violent showdowns and only one of these people will walk away from it.
What sets this effort apart from the others is a remarkable cast. Ice T is okay here but it's the supporting actors that seal the deal and make this one a gripping yarn. The best acting honors go to Gary Busey who takes control of the film for five minutes as the psychiatrist who hates his patients. Busey gets to deliver a whopper of a monologue when he bends Mason's ear about how he got a nasty scar on his cheek. It's a wicked tale that involves a sadistic dad, a frightened boy, and a family pet driven to attack its owner. Great stuff and Busey nails it. Cheers should also go to veteran actor Jeff Corey who appears briefly as Mason's only friend. Corey is fine here but his own story is so much better. He stayed with acting despite a ten-year spot on the black list because he refused to name names to HUAC (Senator Joe McCarthy's witch hunt that followed World War II). He deserved better treatment and was a true patriot who served in the Navy during World War II where he won an award for filming a Kamikaze attack on the carrier, Yorktown. He spent those ten years in exile getting the best revenge by training actors who would go on to win accolades with names like James Dean, Jack Nicholson, and Anthony Perkins. He's in fine form here and continued to act until his death in 2004.
All in all this is a solid rendition of a familiar story that benefits from a grim story line that pulls no punches and is a constant reminder that anyone can fall at anytime, due to outside events, but it takes something from within to rise again.
Best Line: "When you are eating the flesh of the pig look into his beady little eyes and consume his soul."
Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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