I haven’t had such a good laugh at the movies for ages. As Max and Annie, Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are perfectly cast as the youngish middle class couple in the burbs whose main goal is to have a baby (though 48 and 38, they can still get away with it). In the meantime, they regularly host their friends to game nights, at which they might play anything from Scrabble to Monopoly to charades. When Max’s super-successful brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) comes to town, the ante is raised when he invites the group of six to his swank house for a murder game unlike any they have been part of before. Naturally, things go right off the rails from the outset, without the unknowing participants being aware that anything is wrong. That, basically, is the conceit of the entire movie – what is for real and what is not? The two stars don’t hog the best lines, with the dumb blond guy, Ryan (Billy Magnusson), contributing gaucheness that is not overdone (unusual in an American flick) and the black couple, Kevin and Michelle (Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury) sniping at each other about who was the celebrity that Michelle slept with (‘It was Denzel, wasn’t it!’). When a Bulgarian gangster and the always bad Danny Huston get involved, along with a Fabergé egg and a witness protection list, the mayhem is ramped up further, but the thread of the story is never broken. There is a car chase that is appreciable for its briefness, a brilliantly choreographed helter-skelter pursuit through a mansion and, as the climax nears, violence that is tongue in cheek but nevertheless graphic. Most memorable are a couple of hilarious set pieces – Annie trying to dig a bullet out of Max’s forearm after she accidentally shot him, and Max vainly attempting to wipe his bloodstains from the silky hair of a snow-white terrier – and the final reveal, concerning the creepy copper who lives next door, is a doozy.
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