This latest iteration of The Most Dangerous Game is nothing more than a shallow vehicle for bloodshed, and dull to boot.
1932’s The Most Dangerous Game, in its conceit, and even the enduring ambiguity of its title, is entrenched in the cultural consciousness. Remakes and reinterpretations occur at a semi-regular clip (the greatest being John Woo’s Hard Target), and it’s attained a real-world significance as the sinister lodestar of the Zodiac Killer, later to figure greatly into David Fincher’s own Zodiac. Timed to the film’s 90th anniversary is the release of Justin Lee’s own The Most Dangerous Game, but such attempted relevancy is moot considering all the abovementioned modes of tribute.
The plot is the same, with ineffectual changes made on a character level: this time out, it’s a father and a son (Judd Nelson and The Real World alumnus Chris Tamburello, respectively) shipwrecked on Baron Van Wolf’s (Casper Van Dien) island, rendered as windswept exteriors and taxidermy-lined interiors. The “reveal” is fruitlessly delayed: withholding The Most Dangerous Game’s truculent center isn’t exactly subversive when the title and premise is lifted wholesale. The inevitable is brought forth as a tacky wall of skulls hidden behind a curtain, but it lacks the early-thirties expressionism of the original, the artifice never transcending itself. Lee feigns patience, but then simultaneously rushes toward the violence, which, given this uneven equating of narrative parts, presents the deaths as superfluous, even when they’re as grizzly as a head being smashed repeatedly with a hammer.
So this is a vehicle for bloodshed, and not much else, even if Lee laboriously insists otherwise. The scenes of action are few and far between, but in the interim, we’re treated to milquetoast characterization, not to mention simply lousy performances. Even Bruce Dern’s participation is a total nonevent — a familiar face doesn’t give us something to latch onto, but rather reminds us of the shallowness of the whole endeavor.