Survive the Game (USA, 2021)

A cop gets some unexpected help in this throwback to 90’s action films from director James Cullen Bressack.

David and Cal have been partners on the police force who have finally decided to take down a drug cartel and stop them in the middle of a deal. When they confront the dealers, David is hot and injured. Cal goes on a rampage and goes after two of the group, couple Mickey and Violet. He follows them to a supposedly abandoned farm only it’s not abandoned. Eric, a former war veteran is there, and he is still reeling from the loss of his wife and daughter when he hears Cal fight Mickey and Violet in his house.

Cal and Eric eventually make their escape and eventually, Frank, the boss’ enforcer is informed of the situation. He decides to help Mickey, who is the boss’ stepbrother, and heads to the farm with select members of the cartel. To have an insurance policy, Frank has David held hostage. At first, Cal insists on doing things alone. However, upon learning Eric’s background and situation, Cal realizes that he will need Eric’s help to stop the gang and rescue David. Will they succeed or fall prey to this deadly gang?

This action film from James Cullen Bressack may seem like it’s another Bruce Willis starrer but the truth is, the film is a welcome throwback to 90’s buddy action films. In this case, the film actually is led by Chad Michael Murray and Swen Temmel. However, don’t cut Willis short because he does something very hilarious in the film. While he spends most of the movie tied up and kidnapped, Willis still manages to bring the tough guy persona to the mix, but it is done with such fun and hilarity, especially when it comes to confronting the main villain and two of his bumbling henchmen.

Temmel and Murray play complete opposites who come to work together to stop the drug gang. Temmel’s Cal is the hard-boiled cop who is hellbent on avenging his partner, only to learn that he is still alive but kidnapped. Cal tries to be the tough guy who thinks he can do it alone. As for Murray, he is the PTSD-stricken ex-military vet who is still struggling over the death of his family. In some great casting for the flashbacks, Murray’s real-life wife Sarah Roemer and their daughter play his family. As it is his farm that is the setting for the action, Murray’s Eric may be the key to make Cal a hero.

While Michael Sirow’s Frank is meant to be the serious enforcer of the gang, as the film progresses it is hard to take him seriously. The reason is perhaps that people who surround him are not to be taken seriously. An unrecognizable Zack Ward is the crazy redneck Mickey with Kate Katzman as his girlfriend Violet. Katzman channels her inner Harley Quinn in the role while Sean Kanan’s Ed ad-libs a very hilarious scene with Sirow when things don’t go as planned. Kanan and Simon Phillips make for a good bumbling duo as Ed and Liam, two “bodyguards” who are not all there and go nuts when a kidnapped Willis gets the best of them.

Two action sequences that are highlights involve Cal going Rambo-style against some of the gang members and one where Murray, after stopping some goons via a car accident sees his wife telling him that it’s not his time yet while Temmel is fighting off Katzman in the background. The scene was inspired by the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. Yet one will think of the bar scene in Amsterdam in The Hitman’s Bodyguard when it comes to the latter as well.

Survive the Game is not meant to be taken seriously, but as a popcorn flick, it’s a fun ride with Chad Michael Murray and Swen Temmel leading the charge with Bruce Willis in perhaps one of his funniest roles to date in a long time. If you like throwback action films, then this is worth checking out!

WFG RATING: B+

Lionsgate presents an EFO Films production in association with BondIt Media Capital, Buffalo 8 Productions, and Verdi Productions. Director: James Cullen Bressack. Producers: Randall Emmett, George Furla, Mark Stewart, Chad A. Verdi, Alex Eckert, and Luillo Ruiz. Writer: Ross Peacock. Cinematography: Bryan Koss. Editing: R.J. Cooper.

Cast: Chad Michael Murray, Swen Temmel, Bruce Willis, Michael Sirow, Zack Ward, Kate Katzman, Donna D’Errico, Sarah Roemer, Michael Sirow, Sean Kanan, Yulia Klass, Adam Huel Potter, Simon Phillips.

The film will be available in Select Theaters, on Apple TV and Everywhere You Rent Movies on October 8th! Then, it will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on October 12th!

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