The Game

  • 1990
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Political

As THE GAME opens, a tough New York mayoral campaign is about to get tougher: Leon Hunter (Curtis Brown), an ambitious black executive in a public relations firm, is hired to act as campaign manager for Carl Rydell (Dick Biel), a white candidate with little more than his looks and a gift for glib rhetoric to recommend him. Rydell's chief opponent is Bill...read more

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As THE GAME opens, a tough New York mayoral campaign is about to get tougher: Leon Hunter (Curtis Brown), an ambitious black executive in a public relations firm, is hired to act as campaign manager for Carl Rydell (Dick Biel), a white candidate with little more than his looks and a gift

for glib rhetoric to recommend him. Rydell's chief opponent is Bill Arrington (Damon Clark), an intelligent, committed politician who bills himself as the candidate for all people and looks to be a shoo-in as New York's first black mayor. Hunter knows Rydell can't beat Arrington on the real

issues, so he looks for something he can engineer to his vapid candidate's advantage. Hunter finds his opportunity after a racist police officer, Ben Egan (Charles Timm), and his liberal partner, Jason McNair (Richard Lee Ross), arrest black bicycle messenger Vail Yearwood (Billy Williams) for

suspected robbery. In a fit of anger, Egan shoots the unarmed man. A hospital mix-up allows Hunter to fake Yearwood's death, and Rydell takes to the airwaves, denouncing police brutality and swearing his administration will halt such abuses of the public trust. Hunter also pressures Yearwood's

articulate wife (Vanessa Shaw)--who thinks she is a widow--to speak out against the injustice of her husband's death, and she does so persuasively. Egan goes to trial and is convicted on McNair's testimony; despite pressure from the police department, McNair's conscience won't allow him to cover

up for his partner. Arrington drops in the polls and Rydell rises to win the election. Hunter basks in the satisfaction of having won and proved his mettle, even as he makes sure to secure a compromising videotape of Rydell for future use to his own advantage.

Produced, directed, and cowritten by star Brown, THE GAME is a movie you could almost mistake for a 1970s "blaxploitation" picture--gritty, angry, and obviously produced on a painfully low budget, the inadequacies of which undermine the production's effectiveness. But THE GAME is also informed by

a despairing cynicism masquerading as cool rationality that could only be the legacy of the 80s. A paranoid expression of a conspiracy theory in which the world is run by conniving cabals and the little guy always gets the short end of the stick, it uses chess as its principal metaphor. Hunter is

a master at chess, and employs a similarly detached, calculating skill to manipulate the "game" of politics and real life.

At the same time, attitudes are carefully balanced: for every racist pig who wants to kill all blacks or ship them back to Africa, the film provides a liberal to point out that blacks have as much right to a piece of the American dream as any other immigrant group (mentioning for good measure that

unlike others they were brought here in chains). In a flashback, a Black Panther's violent denunciation of white oppression is balanced by another Panther's observation that if all whites really had it so good, there wouldn't be any of them eating out of garbage cans. Egan is a racist, but he's

also a devoted family man demoralized by his job; the devoutly religious McNair wavers between loyalty to the police department and his Christian principles before he comes down on the side of justice. The character of Hunter, a scheming manipulator and opportunist determined to bring down the

system from within, is balanced by that of Silvia Yearwood, an advertising executive who believes she can work with the system to bring about social change. Brown pays scrupulous attention to the population of every scene: women and men, blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians mingle in hospitals,

courtrooms, offices, and streets.

But in the end, everything still comes up ashes. A shallow media operator is elected over an honest man, the reunited Yearwoods are forced to go into exile, and Hunter learns that "once you get rid of the ethics, everything else is a piece of cake." THE GAME is a bleak and pessimistic movie, and

without the high-tech trimmings of INTERNAL AFFAIRS, it's a bitter pill to swallow. (Sexual situations, adult situations.)

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  • Released: 1990
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: As THE GAME opens, a tough New York mayoral campaign is about to get tougher: Leon Hunter (Curtis Brown), an ambitious black executive in a public relations firm, is hired to act as campaign manager for Carl Rydell (Dick Biel), a white candidate with littl… (more)

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