A chronic philanderer falls victim to an extortion scheme when he is abducted by four masked strangers demanding retribution for his sins.
I love it when things go wrong for the protagonist in films and maybe that’s why Fargo and National Lampoon’s Vacation are some of my favourite time killers. There’s something about the cringe-inducing situations that the main characters get themselves into and that, inevitably and unbeknownst to them, things are only going to get much, much worse. Don’t get me wrong, schadenfreude is a terrible thing but bringing out the worst in the viewer is surely a master stroke in film making. If you are still with me after I’ve revealed my love for the two above films then I’m among friends and ready to tell you about The Badger Game, a comedy thriller directed by Joshua Wagner and Thomas Zambeck.
Initially, The Badger Game appears to be a very bad choice of name and conjures up images of fluffy critters but is actually a phrase that refers to a method of blackmailing married men by intentionally placing them in a compromising situation. Alex (Augie Duke) is a scorned woman is decides to take revenge on her ex-lover and enlists three friends to abduct and blackmail the married Liam (Sam Boxleitner) with photos of his numerous affairs. Over the course of the movie things spiral out of control, the plan gets changed and the blood begins to flow and this is all wrapped up with some extremely dark comedy that will have you wondering whether you should laugh or wince.
The three female leads are perfectly cast and their major differences, both morally and motivationally, are heavily played upon throughout the film and it’s this element that keeps the viewer’s interest. Alex is a confident woman hell bent on revenge, Jane (Sasha Higgins) wants revenge for completely different reason and struggles with her own demons, whereas Shelly (Jillian Leigh) is the innocent, unassuming bait for the scheme and is bribed into helping by her ex-best friend. While the character development is top notch throughout the film, the change that Shelly is forced to go through during the film is wonderful to watch as she turns from doe eyed and timid to smart and seductive when all she wants to do is go home.
The fourth anti-hero is Kip, Alex’s brother played by Patrick Cronen, who is a narcissist and enjoys the power trip he is embarking on. The characters are all totally believable, beautifully acted and you find yourself caring for each of them in some way, apart from Kip because he is a complete tool. I was surprised that the two writers/directors of the film are men because all the male characters are depicted as completely deplorable human beings. Liam is womanising millionaire who is built up to be disliked. I hated myself for feeling sorry for him at one point during the movie but any sympathy is quickly quashed as he switches between helpless fool and sneering chauvinist at the flick of a switch.
One of the major plus points in The Badger game is the dialogue, which is expertly written and gives the film many of its comedic moments and while they are rarely full-on, laugh out loud they will raise more than the occasional smirk. Alex and Liam deliver their lines towards one another with vitriol and Jane provides the smartly sarcastic put-downs while the viewer will doubt Kip’s mental capacity from the beginning.
Along with the acting and screenplay, the camerawork is excellent and the grainy look fits well with the gritty subject matter. I don’t want to give too much away but I will say that the film is violent in places and the special effects used, even though they are played for laughs, are shocking and brutal. The visuals are accompanied by sickeningly squishy sound effects that ram home the over the top nature of the movie and are backed by a minimalistic, uber-cool, garage rock soundtrack that provides the right level of tension at the right times. Kip also shows his musical skills off in a couple of places and these scenes reinforce to the viewer that this is meant to be a comedy and that they should be laughing.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Badger Game and was left reeling after it came to its conclusion. It is smartly written, with twists aplenty, and the development of each character is awesome. If you want to watch an intense thriller with the blackest of humours that will keep you wondering what else could go wrong then I highly recommend that you give The Badger Game some of your time.