Movie

What Went Right With… Most Dangerous Game (Quibi)?

A review of Quibi series Most Dangerous Game

Quibi’s Most Dangerous Game is a very underrated TV or web series. I say “series” but it’s not really; each episode is under 10 minutes making the total runtime approximately two hours (127 minutes and 24 seconds to be exact). If this series was edited to remove the titles/credits thus creating a seamless film, it would make a great thriller that would be worthy of a cinema release. In that respect, it’s unfortunate that Most Dangerous Game is a Quibi exclusive, because chopping-up what would be better suited to a full-length movie into “episodes” ruins the flow. Quibi’s issues have been well documented and this, like the streaming service’s best creations, benefits from viewing on a large television rather than a tiny smartphone. Of course playing something that’s short and episodic intended for the smallest of screens, on the biggest screen you can get your hands on, kinda defeats the purpose of this “short-form” platform, but fuck it. Similar to Quibi’s The Stranger, if you cast this “series” to your television and try to ignore the gaps when you select the next episode, you can get lost in the filmic narrative which is suspenseful and action-packed.

Based on the short story The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, the plot about hunting humans has been translated to the screen a few times. From Deadly Prey (1987) to The Hunt (2020) most adaptations have been piss-poor. Quibi’s version, thankfully, is not bad at all. In this iteration, Liam Hemsworth plays Dodge Tynes, a man in masses of debt who’s been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. When Dodge meets businessman Miles Sellars (played by Christoph Waltz) president of a company named the Tiro Fund, he offers Tynes a deal to make millions of dollars ($24.5 million if he survives). For 24 hours Dodge can choose to play a game where he will be the prey, stalked and potentially killed by five unknown hunters, hunters with American president pseudonyms using weapons other than guns. Money will be wired to Dodge’s bank account for every hour he survives, increasing incrementally every hour. Dodge cannot stop or pause the game once it starts, he cannot tell anyone he is playing a game; and he cannot leave the city of Detroit. If he breaks these rules, the game will never end until he is killed.

Christoph Waltz is great as the upbeat, likeable villain, who is offering a service to the elite whilst helping a dying person’s family by erasing their debts. His likeability decreases and his villainy increases once you get to the final act but until then, the Tiro Fund’s service is in some ways euthanasia with added profit (“We hunt desperate humans… we provide optimism”). Tiro’s tagline or motto is “Assurance For Those Without Insurance” which could be seen as a comment on the American healthcare system, but since the plot slowly moves away from illness, it doesn’t get into the nitty-gritty of politics.

With the central character named after a Michigan automobile manufacturer, and with Detroit making for a slightly stark and ever-so bleak backdrop to the thrills and the action, Most Dangerous Game is now in the pantheon of classic Motor City movies along with Beverly Hills Cop, Robocop, and Don’t Breathe.

In terms of cast; Zach Cherry, who plays Dodge’s friend, gives a very amateur, almost expressionless performance but Jimmy Akingbola, star of In The Long Run and Kate & Koji is superb as one of the hunters named Carter, in fact he’s the standout actor. Billy Burke as Reagan, a southern-state hunter, and Chris Webster as Nixon, an educated, upper-class British hunter, are potentially both stereotypes but because they’re played with zeal and a touch of comedy, the end result isn’t cliched at all. Liam Hemsworth plays the central character very well. He’s no Waltz or Akingbola, but he successfully conveys our dying hero who as an audience member, you immediately get behind. It’s also nice to see a protagonist in an action-thriller who’s an everyday bloke, in this case a former athlete turned real estate developer rather than the hackneyed cop or the trite and corny ex-special forces veteran.

Written by Nick Santora, the plot is ever-so-slightly predictable (you can see the episode 13 “twist” coming) but that doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment you have as a viewer. Most Dangerous Game is significantly better than the wannabe satirical The Hunt and in my opinion it’s slightly superior to the low-budget and overrated Bacurau. Directed by Phil Abraham, the look and feel is somewhat “big-budget-TV” rather than cinematic but it’s not amateur by any means. Had Most Dangerous Game been directed by a master of the action genre, say John McTiernan (this would have made a fantastic comeback), it would be much more thrilling and suspenseful. Parts of this film feel like Die Hard With A Vengeance or Cellular (a cat and mouse thriller with a ticking clock and a deadline) although this is probably closer in tone to Nick Of Time. There is an irritating subplot about Dodge’s wife and best friend investigating the deposited money in their bank account which in my opinion is unneeded. There’s also a couple of pointless flashbacks to remind episodic viewers of the storyline, and whilst on the subject of plot, surely if a character can get their hand through an iron gate, they can remove the pole that’s keeping it locked? All that being said, this is a very watchable “series” that’s both exciting and thrilling. It’s not the greatest edge-of-your-seat thriller, but it’s lots of fun and one of the best shows to watch on Quibi.

Given that this series is on Quibi, I tried a couple of times to rotate my tablet from horizontal to vertical and I didn’t see much more or less either way (it’s like watching an open matte version of a film – you don’t really lose much by way of cropping). This shifting from portrait to landscape seems like a gimmick most of the time, and like I said, casting the app to a 50-plus inch, landscape-format TV makes Most Dangerous Game more entertaining than its intended small-screen device.

Quibi has many shortcomings, especially when it comes to these obvious films disguised as TV shows; there should be an option to automatically play the next episode instead of clicking on the next one when the current one finishes. Genuine series such as Murder House Flip are fine with this stop-and-play-the-next system since they have three short episodes per show, but fifteen-episode “series” such as Most Dangerous Game should really be playable playlist-style without the viewer fiddling with their device every few minutes.

I would love if Quibi releases this movie on blu-ray or even 4K blu-ray. The quality of Most Dangerous Game deserves a wider audience and given the failed launch of Quibi, a couple of decent films including this one are being ignored. Critics calling Most Dangerous Game “slow to start” are commenting on it as a series (specifically the first four episodes) and that’s fine, but like I said, if you “binge-watch”, it transforms into a movie, and the pace which gradually picks up, is no longer a problem. From the fifth episode onwards, Most Dangerous Game is brilliant, even the end of the fourth is great for mood-building and intrigue. Quibi are still offering a free trial which means you can watch some great television by this ill-fated and maligned platform without putting a dent in your wallet. If you’re in the mood for a thrill-ride, this is the “series” for you.

Almost Dangerous Game.

Writing: 6/10

Directing: 6/10

Acting: 7/10

Overall: 7/10

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