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Sunday, November 22, 2015

THE BADGER GAME -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

A foolproof kidnap/blackmail scheme that we just know will go way wrong, a damaged damsel who might not be so innocent, a heartless womanizer who maybe isn't quite that deserving of the fate devised for him--these and other unpredictable variables go into the bloody, suspenseful thriller THE BADGER GAME (2014) and out comes a taut and twisted little tale that keeps us guessing.

Alex (Augie Duke) lays out the supposedly perfect plan to her erstwhile best friend, Shelley (Jillian Leigh), which consists of kidnapping Alex's former lover Liam (Sam Boxleitner), a wealthy businessman who failed to mention that he was married, and blackmailing him for two million dollars which he must pay lest they send his wife a bunch of incriminating photos.  The dubious Shelley, badly in need of money for herself and her daughter, is to be the bait to lure Liam into their clutches.

The other variables include meth-addicted stripper Jane (Sasha Higgins), another of Liam's former flames who claims to have been abused by him in a number of ways, and Alex's musclebound ex-con brother Kip (Patrick Cronen), who we fear just might be capable of anything.  Top all that with a mysterious figure secretly spying on them and photographing it all from the shadows, and the fuse is lit for things to eventually blow up real good.

THE BADGER GAME is refreshingly adept at confounding our expectations and detouring the predictable storyline at every turn.  Just when we think it's going to be one of those feminist revenge fantasies about the wronged woman giving the awful user-abuser male his comeuppance, we find out things about both which complicate matters in a big way.

Sympathetic rehab queen Jane turns out to be scarier than we first imagined, while Kip, bless his heart, is the original poster boy for Impulse Control Disorder.  Where all this leaves Liam, all tied up with literally no place to go, makes for some white knuckle moments, with poor Shelley swept along with it all until forced to take drastic action herself when the kidnappers begin to turn on each other.

While not as dark and sadistic as the usual "violence for its own sake" torture fest, the story does have its bloody moments, including some grievous wounds for hemophiliac Liam (which his captors attempt to stem with Krazy Glue) and a particularly nasty garden-implement-to-the-face gag that might put you off din-din for awhile.  Still, it's all in service of the story and, while of passing interest to the gorehounds in the audience, isn't quite what I'd call gratuitous.

What really makes THE BADGER GAME so much fun is just sitting back and watching what comes next as Alex's foolproof plan to score a bundle of cash and some sweet revenge goes off the rails in a number of ways.  Some characters show their true colors, others reveal their dark sides, and some wind up dead.  It's just that kind of game.

The Blu-ray from Intervision Pictures Corp. is in 16:9 widescreen with Dolby Digital sound.  English subtitles are available.  Bonus features include two commentary tracks--one with writer-directors Thomas Zambeck and Joshua Wagner (MIMESIS) as well as composer London May, and another with actresses Augie Duke, Jillian Leigh and Sasha Higgins--plus cast and crew interviews from the Los Angeles premiere.

Usually a story like this is done tongue-in-cheek and laden with obvious gags to let us know it's all in gallows-style fun.  THE BADGER GAME presents all this in straightforward fashion and trusts us to glean the inherent humor from it ourselves.  Along with the bloody horror, the bitter irony, and all that other good stuff. 

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