Picks and Pans Review: The Game

updated 09/22/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/22/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Michael Douglas, Sean Penn

Douglas has a presence unlike any other actor's. He's classy, yet a smidge clammy, as if he had spent his formative years behind the tinted windows of a luxury sedan. This makes him ideal for roles as powerful establishment jerks—and this character is one of the biggest jerks yet. A ruthless, obscenely rich investment banker just turning 48, Douglas is as lonely and unloved as Ebenezer Scrooge. Then his kooky, estranged younger brother (Penn) gives him a gift certificate (how thoughtful!) to Consumer Recreation Services, an adventure outfit that...well, the whole trick of the movie is trying to figure out what CRS does do once Douglas signs on as a client.

He quickly learns that he is trapped in an elaborate, possibly deadly game (which rules out Pictionary). CRS, which apparently has agents and influence everywhere, engineers a terrifying cab ride from hell, stages an unscheduled burial and, most diabolical of all, gets newsman Daniel Schorr to talk directly to Douglas from his TV.

Still, The Game, directed by David Fincher (Seven), has too few convincing twists. One should feel that Douglas is hopelessly lost in an ominous maze. Instead, it's as if he's not sure what aisle he has wandered into at the local Kmart. (R)

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