Warner Home Video presents
Funny Games (2007)
"Listen, young men. I don't know what kind of game you're playing, but I don't want to be part of it."- Anne (Naomi Watts)
Stars: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbett, Devon Gearhart
Other Stars: Boyd Gaines, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Robert LuPone, Linda Moran
Director: Michael Haneke
MPAA Rating: R for terror, violence and some language
Run Time: 01h:51m:39s
Release Date: 2008-06-10
Genre: suspense thriller
DVD ReviewThis is the questionable English-language remake of Michael Haneke's original German 1997 suckerpunch, which seemed to define the whole anti-feelgood movie genre. At least for me.
The original was a relentless ballbuster, a kick in the crotch that never once shied away from going where we all thought it shouldn't go. Or perhaps couldn't go. But it did go there, and Haneke seemed to revel in the repugnant endurance he forced audiences to sit through. This remake is questionable only because it doesn't really seem all that necessary, yet considering Haneke directs—and surprisingly does nothing to softsoap the ugliness—a curiosity factor arises, and that's admirable somehow.
But that can only go so far in justifying this remake.
The premise is identical—so much so that I'll paraphrase part of my review of Haneke's 1997 version: a family vacation (Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Devon Gearhart) turns horrific when a pair of sadistic, but well-spoken young men (Michael Pitt, Brady Corbett) enter their home and hold them hostage. The level of physical and psychological abuse escalates in unspeakably terrible ways, and Haneke seems to love nothing more than allowing a camera to remain motionless while action occurs just in and out of frame. This effect—and the absence of any proper score—gives Funny Games a strange, disconcerting feel, made even stranger by having one of the perpetrators occasionally talk to the camera, and at one point even rewind an entire scene to have play it out differently.
Funny Games wears its bleakness like a badge of honor, and when Haneke allows what typically would be the unthinkable to happen, it becomes clear that this remake will not go the way of George Sluizer. Where Sluizer screwed the darkness out of The Vanishing with a rotten "happy ending" English-language remake, Haneke stays the course, stacking on what must happen, whether we like it or not. When Pitt's Paul gently decries the presence of "so much stress for politeness sake," we know that he is so far gone around the bend that there's no coming back. It's agonizing to watch, yet I feel like Haneke deserves a polite golf clap for not kowtowing to pressures to rewrite the third act.
As a filmmaker, Haneke ranks highly on my list of all-time favorite directors. He has a strange, cancerous vision of humanity, and the way it shows in his films makes for awkward, terrifying, and ultimately refreshing storytelling. But he seems to be stealing from himself with this remake, a pointless experience that still retains all of that cold blackness that made the original such a work of sadistic brilliance.
This one has all the parts—and I mean ALL the parts—but it seems as if something has been lost in translation.
Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: C
|Aspect Ratio||1.78:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Nothing particularly eyecatching about the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Colors and fleshtones have a vaguely washed out tint, rarely appearing natural. No major blemishes or debris, yet the transfer does sport some modest ringing and edge enhancement periodically.
A fullframe transfer is available on the flipside of this disc.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Audio is provided in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, though that matters little here. This is an extremely minimalist presentation, with no measurable spatial movement and virtually no rear channel cues. The stark audio mix does, however, serve to heighten the onscreen ugliness, giving Haneke's grim narrative an even harsher quality.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Orphanage, The Lost Boys: The Tribe, Otis
Extras Review: No extras, save for a few trailers. The disc is cut into 23 chapters, with optional subs in English, French, or Spanish.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsHaneke delivers the same wet mass of familial torture-porn unpleasantness with this questionable English-language remake, yet if you've already experienced the original, you might find this latest take unnecessary and somehow not quite as impactful.
Disturbing? Yes. Needed? Not so much.
Plus, Warner's barebones treatment offers little to make this a required purchase. Still, this is a difficult film to watch, and Haneke deserves a polite nod for not softening any of it for the sake of American audiences.
Rich Rosell 2008-06-09