Movie Review
Funny Games
Funny Games poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published March 21, 2008
US Release: March 14, 2008

Directed by: Michael Haneke
Starring: Naomi Watts , Tim Roth , Michael Pitt


Domestic Box Office: $1,294,640
13 of 117
This is a psychological thriller with a premise that induces real horror.
Funny Games is brilliant. That said, it is likely to infuriate half the people who see it. This is a very, very disturbing film, and yet it's also darkly funny. The fact that this script got made, with this director on board, further proves that no matter how many "safe" movies get made every year, there is always the hope that someone like Michael Haneke will come along and not give a damn. This is a psychological thriller with a premise that induces real horror.

American audiences tend to dislike these films with a passion because these films are so dark, bleak, and uncompromising in their visions. Even though No Country for Old Men and even There Will Be Blood made a surprising amount of money at the box office after being critically acclaimed, there's a good group of people who absolutely despised those pictures. A film like Funny Games does not have a moviegoer on its mind; it has filmmakers on its mind, or those who think like a filmmaker. It's made for people who don't like knowing what's going to happen next in a film - unpredictability is the game.

Why is the film called Funny Games? To the two psychopaths (who hold a family hostage in their upscale, secluded home), the games that these guys play on the pertained family are funny; to the family (as well as the viewer), it is disturbing. These are two young guys who are both extremely intelligent and yet deeply disturbed. The film also plays a huge game on the audience - we are played with several times. Just when you think you might know where this story might be going, the tables turn, and matters get even more complicated.

It's hard to talk about a film like this without going into detail, and going into detail will spoil the surprises - and this story has quite a few; what it decides to do and not do. There is even a darkly funny moment where Michael Pitt (one of the two sociopaths) turns to the camera and says something like: "What would you want us to do in this situation?" This is the film's sense of humor.

Funny Games reminded me of Hard Candy (B) and Cache (B), two independent thrillers most people wouldn't like but they have a cult audience. These are dark films that don't pander, and in the case of Cache, leaves most of the story up to the viewer to figure things out. "Slow but deliberately so" is the order of the game - what they add up to is a chilling piece of work.

Funny Games is so close to a B+ in my book that it literally drove me mad. Several times throughout the film, I let out audible sounds of either discomfort or surprise - when a film gets that from me, I know the thing has worked wonders. If this film had concluded with a different choice of music, B+ probably would've been my grade. Just like at the beginning, when that music suddenly comes on, as if out of place, I had the same reaction there too. I know what Haneke is trying to do, tonally, but I would've much rather liked a more subtle way of getting across that message. This is still a damn good film that will captivate as many people as it will infuriate.
Lee's Grade: B
Ranked #13 of 117 between Towelhead (#12) and The Ruins (#14) for 2008 movies.
Lee's Overall Grading: 3025 graded movies
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