‘Ready or Not’
Rated R: Violence, bloody images, language throughout, and some drug use.
Playing at: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Premiere Cinemas, Cinemark’s Tinseltown 17, Cinemark’s Movies 16 and Stars and Stripes Drive-In.
Credits: Co-directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. Screenplay by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy. Cinematography by Brett Jutkiewicz. Edited by Terel Gibson. Production design by Andrew M. Stearn.
Stars: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie McDowell, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruuh, Nicky Guadagni, Elyse Levesque and John Ralston.
Bill’s rating: Four of five stars
When introduced, the Le Domas family already is worth millions, maybe billions.
No one possibly could mistake new bride Grace as a gold digger, despite the family’s net worth.
Actress Samara Weaving delivers a wonderful star-making performance in dark comedy “Ready Or Not,” with co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett relying on a recipe mixing romance with chopped gore and serving bloody laughter.
Indeed, if audiences will be patient in terms of violence, the picture is as fun as it is original, with game losers eventually identified in explosive fashion.
Weaving’s work will be remembered longer than the movie as a whole. Yet I appreciate an original comedy with such an entertaining pace.
After growing up in a series of foster homes, Grace has married Alex, youngest heir to the Le Domas fortune, and is thrilled to join his family.
She is beautiful, she is sensitive and, despite now deeper pockets, one member of the Le Domas ensemble remarks. “She is nothing like us. She has a soul.”
Even Alex previously had run away from home, trying to tell Grace his parents and siblings are “bad people.” She did not listen.
Determined to marry, Alex feels he had no choice but to return home. He is the prodigal son, marrying at his family’s palatial estate, knowing “for better or worse” will be followed by a macabre tradition.
This wedding night will be non-traditional. Grace is assured by her new family he has only one final task to complete at midnight.
She must play a game chosen specifically for her. Consider it a post nuptial, family initiation.
Patriarch Tony (played by Henry Czerny) explains the Le Domas fortune was slowly constructed upon a gaming empire. Initial profits were earned by creating and selling playing cards during the Civil War. From there, the family devised every possible game imaginable, reaping profits on toy store shelves.
Le Domas family tradition dictates that, with each wedding, the new family member must play a game from midnight until dawn. Deviate from these rules, and the family has grown to believe death and catastrophe will result.
For decades, however, the wedding night’s game has been a boring necessity.
Making the decision is an antique mechanism, which picks a white card on which is written the name of the game to be played. One of Alex’s brothers recalls yawning for hours on end after being told to play Old Maid. Another sibling spent his wedding night playing Go Fish with his new bride and family.
So why, then, do the faces of Alex’s family grow pale when she learns her game is Hide And Go Seek? “Are we really going to do this?” she asks with a curious tone and sly smile.
Alex declares he won’t play the game, but Grace is willing.
How can she win, she asks? That’s simple, whispers Tony. First of all, the newest family member is always It when playing Hide And Go Seek.
Grace can choose anywhere on the mansion’s grounds to hide. Never having been given time to change out of her elaborate white wedding gown, she is advised she must stay hidden, out of sight, for approximately six hours, specifically until sunrise.
Security cameras throughout the grounds are disconnected, turned off to more closely imitate original games from the prior century.
Every family member must stay together in the Game Room long enough for Tony to lead them as they slowly count to 200.
And then – ready or not – here they come!
Suffice it to say that far too much of the story was given away in the film’s trailer (previews). A surprise would have been more fun when Grace climbs into a dumbwaiter to hide and, while family members are counting, they also are being handed a plethora of ancient weapons.
Pistols, swords, a crossbow, and even a huge battle axe are thrust into their hands. They are not merely trying to find Grace. Their mission is to stalk and murder Alex’s new bride before dawn.
Imagine Grace’s surprise when she witnesses a maid being murdered, and immediately figures out the intended victim was herself.
The would-be killer is new sister-in law and resident cokehead Emilie (Melanie Scrofani), hysterical and hilarious while claiming killing the wrong person is not her fault. After all, she never has fired the weapons before.
Just as funny is a potential killer checking You Tube for crossbow directions before an arrow is misfired into another’s throat. Filmmakers tiptoe into bucket-of-blood territory, while the bride seems unable to murder even deadly family.
Every time Weaving thinks she’s found an escape path, or assistance, she is hurt even more. Still, she is no weeping willow. She is a wounded warrior, determined to survive. Trying to climb back from collapsed flooring, Weaving’s character slams her palm onto an exposed nail and, quickly, her stigmata hints at a more Biblical enemy.
Soon enough, Weaving turns “In-laws!” into the film’s funniest line.
And the ending could not be more off the wall or definitive.
Gage’s rating: Three of five stars
For most women, a wedding night is a romantic memory cherished for the rest of their lives.
Unfortunately. Grace’s wedding night in black comedy “Ready or Not,” might easily be transformed into a disastrous murder-fest, with new relatives hoping to sacrifice her to please Satan.
It all depends on which game she chooses to play.
That’s the plot for a movie whose dark humor sticks with you in pleasing fashion – but only for about a half hour.
The movie also provides surprising gore, from an arrow fired into a person’s mouth, to an ending with explosive spoilers I won’t reveal.
Sometimes the violence works, but at times even the blood is too fake. Some gore serves its purpose, while other scenes feel uninspired.
To tell the truth, I expected more gore, but was happy with less.
The screenplay happily builds high points with witty humor. Perceived characters may be hit or miss, but kudos to the actors for pulling off their jokes. We may witness a new bride being stalked, but the humor still defines the movie.
Several scenes left me laughing out loud. The ending also is hilarious, aided by clever, on-point writing that had not been previously prevalent.
Samara Weaving is very good at defining newlywed wife Grace as a solid survivor. She is funny even in life-or-death situations.
Adam Brody excels as Daniel Le Domas, my favorite character, expressing unexpected dry humor.
Mark O’Brien comes across too seriously as Grace’s husband, Alex. His character is too mundane.
Henry Czerny plays Tony, Alex and Daniel’s dad and the voice of family power. The actor’s comedy chops also are evident.
Once introduced, the story becomes inconsistent, but at least the dark humor helps. Focusing only on violence minus the humor would not have worked. The story still needs to be fine-tuned, like a piano, for any audience to become more invested.
While parts of “Ready or Not” are fun to watch, others are forgettable. Call this middle-of-the-road cinematic entertainment, with perhaps an equal number of highs and lows.