ROAD GAMES

PrintE-mail Written by Luke Channell

Set in the picturesque French countryside, Road Games follows young Englishman Jack (Andrew Simpson) who's running away from a failed relationship and hitching a lift back to the Calais-Dover ferry. While on the road he befriends fellow drifter and beautiful Frenchwomen Veronique (Joséphine de La Baume) who informs him that a serial killer is currently on the loose in the region. Cue the apt entrance of eccentric middle-aged nut-case and road-kill connoisseur Gizard (Frédéric Pierrott) who insists on providing shelter for the two travellers in his luxury mansion. From here the weirdness is slowly ramped up as the threesome sit down for an uncomfortable dinner along with Gizard's pale, uneasy-looking American wife Mary (played by 80s 'scream queen' legend Barbara Crampton). 

This early section is where Road Games works best. Director Abner Pastoll creates enough suspense from Gizard and Mary's peculiar behaviour (along with help from an effectively atmospheric synthy score from Daniel Elms) to keep the audience engaged in this slow-burn build up. It's when events predictably go south when Road Games derails and takes some majorly nonsensical turns. Pastoll's insistence on steeping absolutely everything and everybody in ambiguity obscures any clear character motivation, plot development or idea of what the hell is going on. Even on a second viewing it's not clear why several characters make the decisions they do and consequently there’s just no stakes or sense of real danger. The constant interchanging between English and French language only serves to dissipate this dwindling sense of suspense further.

 

Unfortunately, Road Games' incoherent plot is not held up by the strength of its characterisations either. All of the characters remain undercooked, uninspiring and uninteresting. The film's success depends heavily on the romantic connection between Jack and Veronique but their relationship is both poorly developed and unconvincing. Perhaps it's unfair to attribute this failure solely on Pastoll's script as Simpson makes for a bland, lacklustre leading man and his delivery often feels amateurish.

 

Road Games also features some of the most bizarre and unintentionally humorous attempts at suspense and drama we have ever seen on screen. One scene plays out more like a Laurel and Hardy sketch as characters incomprehensibly fall over to serve the action of the plot. In another instance a chase sequence staged around a single barrel of hay (yes really) had us in fits of laughter when we should have been riddled with anxiety over the lead duo's fates. Road Games' promising opening makes everything that follows all the more frustrating; there was a good movie in here somewhere, this just isn't it.

ROAD GAMES / CERT: 15  DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: ABNER PASTOLL / STARRING: ANDREW SIMPSON, JOSEPHINE DE LA BAUME, FREDERIC PIERROT, BARBARA CRAMPTON, RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 29TH


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