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Flashback To 1994: "Surviving The Game" (Ice-T Vs The Übermensch, Directed By Ernest Dickerson)

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act March 26, 2012 at 1:33PM

This seemed like a worthy flashback in light of recent events...

This seemed like a worthy flashback in light of recent events...

I should first say, for those of you just joining us, that my "Flashback" posts are not necessarily recommendations of each film; usually my intent is to point out something specific (often topical) about each film, whether good or bad, or just revisiting them for no reason other than I recently watched them again.

Surviving The Game, directed by Ernest Dickerson, is a 1994 loose adaptation of Richard Connell's 1924 story, The Most Dangerous Game, starring Ice-T, Rutger Hauer, Gary Busey and Charles S. Dutton. It's a low-budget, b-grade exploitative genre flick; but I'd also consider it something of a guilty pleasure, with Ice-T being the weakest link.

This was made 3 years after New Jack City (another guilty pleasure), and Ice's acting skills don't seem to have much improved over that time period, during which he co-starred in 4 other films.

It's one of several adaptations of Richard Connell's short story, whose basic concept has been borrowed for numerous films - inverting the, at the time, fashionable big-game hunting safaris in Africa and South America by wealthy Americans. Essentially, human lives are deemed worthless and they become prey for other humans.

The film itself isn't very good, but the ideas it introduces are thoughtful, whether intentionally or not. I'm not certain whether Connell's original purpose was to make some social commentary, even though his intent is kind of irrelevant, given just how much of a powder keg the ideas presented are, without him needing to make any explicit affirming statements or otherwise. It's oozing with race and class under- and overtones.

And Ernest Dickerson's adaptation is really no different, even though he seems to want to temper its underlying race-play by having a black man in Charles S. Dutton as one of the hunters. I wonder if the story idea in reverse would/could ever be made into a film - 4 black men hunting a white man for sport.

Watching it, I kept thinking of films like the 2007 French thriller titled Them, as well as Michael Haneke's Funny Games, and even the Übermenschian themes in Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (itself based on a play inspired by the Leopold & Loeb murder case of the early 20s).

It also conjures up thoughts on the results of our being desensitized to increasingly graphic depictions of violence - essentially the idea that we've become so bored with existing "game;" video games, for example. What excited us at first, no longer does, so we seek games with even more action and more violence, as they gradually start to replicate the real-life experience of killing. Until we get bored with that experience, seeking more of a thrill, more of a challenge, more of a high, and eventually turning to/on each other for sport.

Although, unlike Them and Funny Games, in the end, the prey survives, effectively becoming the hunter, turning the tables on his predators.

Yes, I know Surviving The Game is b-grade material, and I'm not necessarily recommending it; However, that doesn't mean the film is without ideas and shouldn't be looked at closely. As I've said previously, there's no such thing as "mindless entertainment."

Here's its trailer as a refresher:

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