A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Nemesis Game

March 31, 2011

Nemesis Game

I bought this movie as a kind of joke. Amanda is a huge fan of the Highlander television show and I saw this one day with the pre-viewed movies at one of the places where I worked. It featured Adrian Paul prominently on the box, and I knew nothing else about the movie besides that. Knowing what a ham Adrian can be I had zero expectations for this movie.

It’s actually not a bad movie. It’s convoluted and implausible, and feels at the end as though the writer kind of ran out of ideas, but it’s not quite the kind of cheese I was expecting when I put it in. Instead it’s a fun sort of thriller that plays with the notion of riddles and how they might reveal something about the chaos of our daily lives.

Riddles are the central theme of the movie. Adrian Paul is a mysterious shop owner named Vern who has a fondness for riddles. His shop looks like a kind of grungy comic book or video store. He has an acquaintance named Sarah, who is the actual lead character. She, too, is interested in riddles. Then there’s the central mystery regarding a woman named Emily Gray who used to be a normal intelligent person but who has inexplicably become involved in random murders. Sarah’s father, a police detective, is called in to interview Emily Gray but he is unaware that Emily’s latest victim was known to Sarah.

Sarah and Emily and Vern are all caught up in some kind of strange riddle-centric game. The high-concept premise behind everything here is that there’s a kind of secret cult obsessed with riddles. It sounds a little like Scientology. If you answer enough riddles you will be allowed into the inner circle who know the secrets of the universe. Specifically there is a Design to all things that allows somebody who has solved enough riddles to understand the reason behind the apparently random tragedies that plague us. Sarah is intrigued by the notion that there might be a reason that explains the death of her mother in a random traffic accident.

Where the movie falls down somewhat is in delivering on this high concept. Writer/director Jesse Warn has some good ideas here and there are a couple of fun twists to his plot, but the notion of the ultimate Design is poorly developed. Emily Gray is a chilling character and wonderfully played with her complete conviction that the murders she attempts are part of this design, but ultimately it is not explained why. Sure there are some odd coincidences and revelations (some of which feel particularly forced) but the ineffable design remains just that – ineffable. Unknowable.

As this is a movie about riddles there are constant riddles throughout the film, which is fun because it gives us as viewers a chance to figure out some things before they’re fully understood by the characters in the movie. But the ultimate riddle at the core of the whole plot is something that we’re pretty much told we cannot understand, so the last fifteen minutes of the movie or so when a whole bunch of stuff happens never makes any sense. Stuff happens and it feels unsatisfying to me because we’re never really told why. Then the movie is abruptly over.

Still – it is not a bad movie. It’s well made and has some fun writing to it. (I particularly loved the sort of riddle scavenger hunt that Vern and Sarah play near the start of the film: it looks like it would be a fun game to play in real life.) I like these sort of low budget independent films, and I’m glad that there are talented teams of people out there making them. It kind of makes me want to find a copy of my uncles’ movie Lies from the eighties. It’s been years since I saw that.

March 31, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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