Gatlopp: Hell of a Game - New Release Review
Director: Alberto Belli
Starring: Jim Mahoney, Emmy Raver-Lampmann, Jon Bass, Sarunas J. Jackson
Written by: Jim Mahoney
Produced by: Sarah Gabriel, Mark Goldberg, James Harris, Mark Lane
Cinematography by: Xing-Mai Deng
Original Score by: Kenny Wood
During a reunion a group of old friends decide to play a drinking game, but it's quickly revealed that this game comes with supernatural stakes.
This is one of the reasons why I don't drink alcohol anymore. Drinking games always bring the worse out in people and Gatlopp is no different, except in this game if you don't follow the rules you might die.
'Gatlopp: Hell of a Game' was being labelled 'Jumanji' meets 'Escape Room' and while it does share some very thin similarities to both of those "games" it isn't anywhere near the same level of quality. 'Gatlopp' is a comedy first with the mere hint of disastrous consequences lingering over each of the characters heads. There's almost zero horror at work here and any time anything sinister pops it's head up it's always treated like a hilarious afterthought. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing here.
Paul (Jim Mahoney) is being divorced by his cheating wife so his good friend Cliff (Jon Bass) invites him to stay at his place for a while until he gets back on his feet. But Cliff has invited old pals Sam (Emmy Raver-Lampmann) and Troy (Sarunas J. Jackson) over for the day to welcome Paul back into their group and after much deliberation they decide to play a drinking game, just like old times.
The film starts with some pretty creative credits accompanied by a very 80's inspired Danny Elfman-esque opening piece of music. It made me smile. The first 15 minutes is basically an introduction to our core group of friends and where they are at in their lives now. There's quite a lot of very stylish, modern day swipe transitions between the characters performing their everyday activities. Split screens complete with whimsical background musical stings make it feel less cinematic and more in line with a high end comedy television show.
As we get to know our group and they reconnect with each other we're treated (and I use that word sarcastically) to some flashbacks that let us know just how wild these friends really are. They use to love having crazy parties and one party in particular will be an important part of the story come the end of the film.
They play the game. They get very drunk. They realise that the game is actually playing them and that they must follow each rule to the letter or face the consequences. It all starts off rather light hearted. Cliff summons an old high school flame just so he can tell her to "Go Fuck yourself" then she vanishes into thin air. This starts a chain of mysterious, supernatural events and the group are forced to finish the game. They can't leave the house or even interact with anybody outside. They are prisoners to the game.
It's all very silly and continuously seems like a Halloween Special of a US network TV show. But the cast really sell it and I found it difficult not to like them, especially Jon Bass and Emmy Raver-Lampmann. Both are extremely charismatic and their comedy timing is spot on and despite the silliness of it all there are a few laughs in there. Some scenes go a bit too far though. There's a jazzercise sequence which feels like really low budget comedy and reminded me of one of those cutaway gags from 'Scrubs'.
As the film progresses a more serious element begins to surface. The game is trying to teach the group a lesson about themselves. It's making them address their own insecurities and secrets and it forces them to be honest, something that doesn't come easy for them. It's a bit reminiscent of 'Saw' in that respect though not as clever or even intriguing. And I found myself finding it difficult to take any of the more sincere moments seriously because for a large portion of that part of the film Sam and Troy swap bodies, so Raver-Lampmann is voicing Troy and Sarunas Jackson is voicing Sam, which kind of took me out of it.
Technically there's nothing that stands out about the film. The dialogue is quite sharp at times with some funny throwaway lines but the lighting and shot choices aren't very inspiring. It's not the most original idea but it was harmless fun that never felt like hard work to get through.
- Gavin Logan
Signature Films and Signature Entertainment presents 'Gatlopp: Hell of a Game' on Digital Platforms June 27th