‘Play or Die’: Ignore the Haters, it’s Actually Quite Enjoyable

Belgian movie, but in English. Lucas (Charley Palmer Rothwell) is a bored cashier whose ennui is interrupted by the sudden return of his ex, Chloé (Roxane Mesquida). She convinces him to enter the final round of Paranoia, a game of wits and riddle-solving, with a prize of a million Euros (roughly a million dollars U.S.). A few brainteasers later, they meet Maxine (Daphné Huynh), Ray (Hippolyte de Pocques), Naomi (Marie Zabukovec), and Jablowski (Thomas Mustin) at the final-est round, a psychiatric hospital. Split into teams of two, they’re forced to solve increasingly deadly puzzles.

Woo, Lucas and Chloé are on fire!

I came across this movie when I had a rent-one-get-one-free deal from Redbox. It was my third choice, and I wasn’t extremely enthused about it. As I checked the general info on IMDb, I saw it had extremely low user ratings, with one claiming it was boring. So I lowered my standards and got on with it.

Nyeh, I wanted to watch The Black String!

And I was pleasantly surprised! I didn’t think it was boring at all. The opening is mysterious and quite beautifully shot. The pacing isn’t inordinately slow, and while the characters aren’t exactly likable, they’re interesting. I wasn’t actively rooting for any of them to disappear. The suspense is sustained admirably throughout. The gamers face pointy blades, fire, electric shocks, and a dentist chair complete with instruments. Watching Lucas’s sharp mind go to work is a lot of fun. (I can’t picture Americans doing well at Paranoia, ’cause ya have to know stuff, about other countries even.) Chloé meanwhile is not as savvy, but she’s twice as gutsy. She too is a pleasure to see in action.

‘Ho hum, just another day for Chloé.’

Of course there are torture scenes, but violence is used sparingly, and it doesn’t come across as cheap or exploitative. (Maybe that’s why some people thought it was boring–it’s not bloody enough.) Overall, I was glad I watched it. It’s not film of the year, but I wholeheartedly recommend.

“Come and solve puzzles with us. Forever and ever and ever…”

Published by GhoulieJoe

I wuvs the horror movies and like to write snarky reviews about them. I also included some pretentious as hell microfiction (don't worry, it's at the bottom).

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