Surviving the Game (1994)
Surviving the Game (1994)

Genre: Action and Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.

Release Date: April 15th, 1994 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Ernest Dickerson Actors: Ice-T, Rutger Hauer, Charles S. Dutton, Gary Busey, F. Murray Abraham, John C. McGinley, William McNamara, Jeff Corey




ack Mason (Ice-T), a homeless man with nothing to lose, scavenges for food in trash cans with his fellow vagrant, the elderly Hank (Jeff Corey). After opportunistically stealing a massive rack of meat from a facility, he generously feeds a large group of starving people. But the following morning finds Hank deceased, leading Jack to further withdraw into an independent, solitary state of mind. When the suspiciously motivational charity worker Walter Cole (Charles Dutton) recommends Mason to Hell’s Canyon Outfitters, a hunting company operating in exceptionally remote locations, the once penniless man retains a job as a wilderness guide.

Claiming to kill animals for therapeutic purposes, manager Thomas Burns (Rutger Hauer) joins hunters Wolfe Sr. (F. Murray Abraham) and his sympathetic son Derek (William McNamara); the mentally unstable John Griffin (John C. McGinley), who recently lost his daughter; and coldblooded CIA psychiatrist Doc Hawkins (Gary Busey) – for a grand outing. Mason enjoys expensive wine and a lavish meal before awaking the next morning to discover that the huntsmen intend to hunt down Mason himself for sport. If he can’t make it to civilization by the time they’ve consumed a leisurely breakfast, he’ll be slaughtered like the big game the stalkers are so clearly bored with tracking. Quite unfairly, Mason is unarmed, while his pursuers drive ATVs and tote heavy firepower.

In the beginning, there’s mention of regaining confidence to prevent oppressive naysayers from pushing Mason back down into poverty – the system for class division orchestrated by the elitist rich. As it turns out, his enemies are specifically overprivileged, moneyed warmongers. For the price of $50,000, such thrill-seekers can pay for the chance to learn something about survival and humanity – and barbarism. Playful trumpet music clashes terribly with the darker subject matter as Mason must persevere against not only bloodthirsty psychopaths but also the unforgiving woodland terrain and wildlife. Fortunately, desperation goes a long way against cockiness.

Gary Busey takes his role much too seriously, reciting a lengthy monologue about his father’s tough-love training that is unintentionally, absolutely hysterical (it involves a vicious bulldog, which is a contrary notion indeed, considering the friendly disposition of that particular breed); Abraham (a decade after his Best Actor Oscar win) takes on a tragically silly part as the ruthless role model for his inexperienced child soldier; and McGinley chimes in with textbook overacting. It’s an impressive gathering of recognizable character actors enjoying themselves in poorly written parts. Ice-T similarly delivers bad dialogue, which sounds as if it was either ad-libbed or written specifically for him – riddled with expletives, one-liners, and “yo mama” quips. In its modernized reworking of 1932’s “The Most Dangerous Game,” “Surviving the Game” is still an amusing B-movie action/adventure, if for no other reason than its peculiar casting and frequently laughable, pitifully executed concepts.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10