DVD REVIEW: RPG / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: TINO NAVARRO, DAVID REBORDÃO / SCREENPLAY: TINO NAVARRO, ARTUR RIBEIRO / STARRING: RUTGER HAUER, CIAN BARRY, ALIX WILTON REGAN, DAFNE FERNÁNDEZ, CHRIS TASHIMA / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 8TH
The most surprising thing about this Portuguese science fiction film is that, in many ways, it is not as bad as it looks. Indeed, the concept is pretty ambitious. However, for all Rebordão and Navarro’s good intentions, RPG (which somewhat disappointingly stands for Real Playing Game) is not quite as distinctive as it needs to be. A shame, because with some tweaks this could have at least been more fun.
The film sees an ill, rich old man, (the cheekily named, for all you Blade Runner fans) Steve Battier (Hauer), travel to a facility to take part in a 10-hour game with nine other wealthy participants. Their minds are transferred into younger bodies, and the aim of the game is to outlive your competition by the hour (if nobody dies in an hour, the game chooses one to eliminate at random) and the last person standing gets to reclaim their youth. The concept may be similar to other films but the gender politics and morality that Ribeiro and Navarro instil into the film are very admirable. The fact that, once in the game, the participants have no recollection of who they really are is an intriguing touch (although not without its problems).
In fact, the film comes with some considered moments and is bookended by a very stylish (think TRON: Legacy but on a far, far, far smaller scale) opening and climax. Sadly, once the game progresses, cracks begin to appear. The ideas raised are simply that - raised. They are not explored enough and come the final twist, the whole film is rendered a tad pointless. The characters remain mostly nameless, although we know who Roy… I mean Steve’s younger self is (Cian Barry), and that is another issue. The film only really presents this bunch of characters through thick young stereotypes (handy girl, promiscuous girl, Mexican, Asian, sex-obsessed douche, etc). Then there is the acting, which is wildly inconsistent, veering from dreadful to tolerable. Hauer is billed as the lead but only really shows up at the start and finish and while there is fun to be had in Chris Tamisha’s turn as The Gamemaster, character-wise there is little here to elevate this game.
RPG is not a particularly good film, but it does feel unfair to write it off entirely, as it has its plus points. It is a pity that it feels so forgettable come the end because in spite of all its faults, a few rewrites and some changes to the dialogue could have made all the difference. As it is, RPG is watchable but ultimately cannot escape a late-night throwaway vibe.