The comedy hit HOME ALONE (1990) spawned a whole generation of child-savior scenarios, some of which are outright thrillers like PLAYING DANGEROUS. These indirect descendants of boy-who-cried-wolf films like THE WINDOW (1949) feature juvenile heroes who overcome the superior brawn and
chicanery of grown-ups with their superior intellects.
Although Conrad Wolfe (George Shannon) is in a witness protection program, his family is still vulnerable to his enemies. When his brother in Germany sends a top secret fax bearing a formula for a solar-powered energy source, a quintet of mercenaries invades the Wolfes' home and terrorizes the
family--wife Helene (Linda Lo Porto), prickly teenaged daughter Kelly (Ali Patrick) and child prodigy son Stuart (Mikey LeBeau). Stuart stalls for time by revealing he entered the coveted formula into his computer and camouflaged it with an access code; at the same time, Kelly tries to barter sex
for her family's freedom. While the mercenaries try to break Stuart's access code, another assassin from a rival group is on is way to obtain the same information and dispose of the previous team. Stuart slips out of custody, eliminates one hit man with a homemade chemical bomb and torches
another. The rival assassin kills another before being murdered himself by Rickman (David Keith Miller), the group's leader. A fatal jolt of electricity rigged into the computer by Stuart takes care of another mercenary. After a Mexican standoff, Mr. Wolfe breaks free and shoots Rickman; Stuart
reveals that he memorized the info before loading it into his database.
PLAYING DANGEROUS has a few assets beyond the novel sight of a tiny techno-brat rescuing his family from a DESPERATE HOURS situation. Shot with considerable flair on a penny-pinching budget, this compact thriller features some tartly amusing dialogue and suspense-enhancing camerawork.
Unfortunately, the visual aplomb and tangy talk can't quite rescue this sleeper from faulty script construction. The subplot of the rival assassin blunts the impact of the family hostage crisis, the central focus of the movie. And one has to question the morality of showing a schoolboy killing
people (evil as they may be) as if they were science projects. Only by constantly portraying the Wolfe's dilemma as a life-or-death situation does PLAYING DANGEROUS obviate this criticism. Trying to straddle the universes of violence-laden adult action and a child's fantasy, PLAYING DANGEROUS
inevitably loses its balance. What is impressive is how close this throwaway diversion comes to rising above its generic limits and providing thrills for the entire family. (Violence, extreme profanity.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: The comedy hit HOME ALONE (1990) spawned a whole generation of child-savior scenarios, some of which are outright thrillers like PLAYING DANGEROUS. These indirect descendants of boy-who-cried-wolf films like THE WINDOW (1949) feature juvenile heroes who ov… (more)