Ready or Not (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): A deadly game with her in-laws

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The heroine of “Ready or Not” faces a lot more risks and troubles than she ever imagined, and that is the main source of naughty pleasure in this morbid black comedy film. Poor girl, she only wants to present herself well in front of her groom’s eccentric wealthy family, but, alas, she happens to pick a very dangerous game for them, and now she must play the game for surviving her increasingly perilous wedding night.

At first, everything looks mostly fine for Grace (Samara Weaving), a young woman who is soon going to be the wife of Daniel (Mark O’Brien), the second son of a very rich family who has prospered a lot in their board game manufacturing business for several generations. Daniel assures Grace that nothing will go wrong during their wedding, and Grace does not look that worried about encountering Daniel’s family, but it is very clear to us that some of Daniel’s family members are not so pleased about accepting Grace, who do not look that good enough to be their new family member in their viewpoint.

Anyway, Tony Le Domas (Henry Czerny) and his wife Becky (Andie MacDowell) respect their son’s decision, and the wedding ceremony is soon followed by the evening family meeting in their big family mansion, where Grace gets to know a bit more about Daniel’s family members and the long history of their successful board game manufacturing business. Not so surprisingly, Daniel’s family is quite serious about playing games, and Grace is not bothered at all when she is notified that there will be a ritual where she will be demanded to pick a game to be played by her and them after midnight.

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Of course, as shown from Daniel’s concerned face full of anxiety and hesitation, Daniel and his family are not entirely honest about what they are going to do with Grace. When they finally instruct her to pick a game out of an antique box associated with a legendary benefactor of their family business, they all look utterly solemn and serious, and then they are all quite alarmed when her random pick turns out to be “Hide and Seek”.

Because of the opening scene in the film, we already have a pretty good idea on what will happen sooner or later, but Grace still does not notice anything strange from her in-laws. After being told that all she has to do is hiding from them till the next morning, she willingly participates in the game without any suspicion, but it does not take much time for her to realize how serious her in-laws are about playing their game. While Daniel understandably refuses to join the game, all of his family members are ready to win the game by any means necessary, and they are equipped with various kinds of lethal objects to be used for the game while also assisted a bit by their loyal family butler, who shuts off all the surveillance cameras in the mansion for fair play but locks up every exit in the mansion.

As our unfortunate heroine tries to survive this dangerous circumstance as much as she can, the movie cheerfully doles out a number of sudden moments to shock and jolt us. While you may cringe a lot during these violent moments, they are mostly executed well with sharp comic timing at least, and I was particularly tickled by a grisly but outrageous moment resulted from the clumsy handling of a crossbow.

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In the meantime, the screenplay by Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy gradually raises what is being at stake for Grace and other characters. While Grace becomes more determined to survive as going through several grueling moments including the one associated into a certain underground space, it turns out later in the story that her in-laws are not playing this game for mere sport, and we come to see more of how conflicted Daniel is. While he wants to help his wife survive as much as he can, he may have to give up everything in his life including his family in the end, and he hesitates more even though he does not like many of them much.

Under the competent direction of directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, the movie continues to hold our attention even when it is approaching to its eventual finale, and Samara Weaving, who previously played a notable supporting role in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2017), functions well as a plucky heroine we can root for, and she is also supported well by a bunch of colorful supporting players, who all have a ball with playing their broad archetype characters. While Mark O’Brien is effective as a nice guy constantly hesitating between love and family, Henry Czerny and Andie MacDowell enjoy every second of their juicy moments, and so do the other main cast members including Adam Brody, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Elyse Levesque, John Ralston, and Nicky Guadagni, who, as Daniel’s stern aunt, always grips our attention with her sourly disapproving stare.

Although it is not that twisty and devious compared to other similar films such as “Sleuth” (1972) and “Deathtrap” (1982), “Ready or Not” still entertains us well on the whole, and I enjoyed many of darkly humorous scenes in the film. Yes, you can instantly see what you are going to get from it, but it will not disappoint you at all as providing a fair share of naughty fun and excitement, and you will be satisfied enough in the end.

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