Funny Games is a disturbing, and at times frustrating and infuriating, but overall entertaining thriller, which is probably just the result German writer-director Michael Haneke wanted.
A scene-for-scene remake of Haneke’s own original 1997 Austrian-made version, it stars two seasoned campaigners in Naomi Watts, who also co-produced, and Tim Roth as … well, let me be brutally honest, a pretty pathetic well-off married couple who, along with their young son, are held captive and terrorised in their own Long Island holiday home.
The real star though is Michael Pitt, playing one of the two teenage white-gloved psychopaths. His character, Paul, is as confident, cool, calm and calculating, not to mention creepy, a young killer as you could come across, sending his victims into a frenzy, mentally and physically.
I’ve only seen the 26-year-old Pitt (no relation to Brad) a couple of times, the other when he played another high school killer opposite Ryan Gosling and Sandra Bullock in Murder By Numbers (2003).
I liken him to a dark version of Leonardo DiCaprio. He has divided audiences to the extreme, but it is understandable considering the extreme nature of the characters he has portrayed.
He appears to be a subtly brilliant actor (if that makes sense) and has a baby face – a baby face which makes the part of Paul in Funny Games all the more chilling.
He teams with Brady Corbet (who was the adolescent hero of the 2004 sci-fi dud Thunderbirds), who plays Peter. Both are apparently guests of the family next door – or are they?
(Spoilers ahead) Their interaction with Anne (Watts) begins innocently enough. While George (Roth) and young Georgie are out on the boat, Peter drops over to ask for some eggs – twice - but after he ‘accidently’ drops and breaks eight of them, a purely awkward situation turns downright nasty.
His partner-in-crime Paul turns up, and at first he is polite, apologizing for his friend’s clumsiness and then cunningly asks to try out one of George’s prized Callaway golf clubs from the bag near the front door. Anne begrudgingly obliges, but little does she know he’s gone into the yard to use it to take care of the family pooch.
It is soon after that the nature of their ‘game’ is revealed – as is Anne and George’s total lack of a survival instinct, perhaps stemming from a life of privilege.
George does nothing more than give Paul a little bitch-slap when he gives him some cheek after refusing to leave the property. He then cops the whack he should’ve been dishing out when Peter grabs another Callaway and breaks his leg with it.
George later sits there and does nothing when his wife is made to strip in front of them all, and his son is held with a bag over his head, struggling to breath. Sure, the guy is supposed to be incapacitated, but broken leg or not, he’s still got another one, not to mention two hands! Use them fella!
Oh, well, it’s only a movie, and we are reminded of that several times throughout, with Paul at one stage turning to the camera and asking us “… what do you think? You think they stand a chance? Well, you’re on their side, aren’t you? Who are you betting on, hmm?”
It is one of the ‘games’ writer-director Haneke himself is playing with his audience.
Of course, they don’t survive. In fact their deaths are quite brutal, especially little Georgie’s unfortunate demise. But, this is by no means a gory film. We see a lifeless body in the corner of the picture and blood splattered on the wall, but that’s about it.
The biggest shocks come from the mouth of Paul , whether it be words – “Let’s say, 12 hours all three of you are gonna be kaput. Okay?” – or that sadistic little smile, which he displays right at the end of the film when he and Peter are about to embark on round 3 of their frightening game.
This is not one of those movies with a happy ending – unless your actually gunning for Paul that is.
Let this movie be a lesson: Beware of boys wearing little white gloves