Surviving The Game is a little b-grade action movie based upon the idea of rich men hunting the homeless. An idea which was featured a year earlier in the Jean-Claude van Damme vehicle Hard Target. This time the hunted is none other than gangster rapper Ice-T. The hunting party consists of surprising relatively big names; Rutger Hauer, Charles S. Dutton, Gary Busey, Oscar-winner F. Murray Abraham, John C. McGinley and William McNamara. Since going to the police is out of the question when you’re Ice-T he has to use his wits and street-knowledge to survive this game played out in the wilderness, far from civilization.
What surprises me is how much movies actually are released theatrically in America that are released direct to video overseas. Sure, America serves as a testing ground of releases and if a movie underperformed over there it might me be a good reason to release it directly to video over here, three years later. Surviving the Game is one of those movies and it’s no wonder. It has a very b-movie feel to it and the cast consists of mostly actors whose filmography consists of a lot of b-movies. Yes Rutger and Garey, I’m talking about you. If you are expecting an A-grade action-packed movie with tons of great special effects you’ll be disappointed. If you expect a b-movie with some fun performances you won’t go wrong with Surviving the Game.
Ice-T is a homeless man living on the streets stealing meat at night and caring for dogs at day. When his buddy Hank and a dog die on the same day he just doesn’t want to live anymore. Fortunately there’s savior Charles S. Dutton who offers him a job. Unfortunately this job will eventually consist of being the prey in a hunt. So off Ice-T goes with the leader of the pack Rutger Hauer and Dutton to some remote piece of wilderness where he meets the people he’s supposed to be guiding through said wilderness; CIA-employee-turned-psychiatrist Garey Busey,Texan Oil tycoon McGinley, Wall-Street-Banker Abraham and his wuss son McNamara. Unknowingly he has a “last supper” with them that night when Busey tells a story about himself, his dog and cherry bombs that all are related to a scar on his face. Quite disturbing and probably not even scripted. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was just ad-libbing a true story. After 40 minutes, which is a tad too long for a set-up, Ice-T wakes up with a gun in his face and finds out what his purpose really is.
The rest of the movie is a cat and mouse game in which the hunters will find out that Ice-T turns out to be more of a survivor and fighter than they would’ve expected and will get the tables turned on them. This is done with less explosions, doves and martial arts than in Hard Target. Compared to that movie this movie is more down to earth and delves somewhat deeper in the psyche of the characters. But not much because this is an Ice-T vehicle of course.The director of this picture is Ernest R. Dickerson who mostly directs episodes of TV shows. His directing here is quite bland and nothing worth mentioning comes into mind when looking back at the film. That makes me even more appreciative of the work John Woo did on Hard Target. Of the two movies that one is definitely superior. Surviving the Game is adequate as a b-movie, and I enjoyed it as one, but it is nothing more than that.