Game Of Death

Like most of the 1990s’ US action movie stars, Wesley Snipes has found that the best years of his career are behind him, but – like Steven Seagal – he continues to churn out fairly standard thrillers which are usually watchable and often competently made, but quite unexceptional. Game Of Death (which has nothing to do with Bruce Lee’s 1978 chop-socky flick) is yet another of Snipes’ passable and formulaic efforts. With a storyline that’s told in flashbacks, Snipes plays CIA agent Marcus, an assassination specialist, maintaining a saturnine presence in the actor’s now-trademark affectation of a fashionable raincoat and flat cap, taking his mission briefings at daybreak on a park bench.

The mission in Detroit is to protect hospitalised diplomat and businessman, Frank Smith (onetime Bond villain and now B-movie stalwart Robert Davi, not given much to do here except for playing an ageing, sweaty heart-attack patient), from a crack team of proverbially ruthless assassins led by Marcus’ former colleagues, stoic Zander (kickboxing champion Gary Daniels, The Expendables, Fist Of The North Star), and overly chatty Floria (stunt-woman Zoe Bell, Death Proof, Angel Of Death), who have both gone rogue as mercenary thieves.

Basically, this starts off like Die Hard in a hospital, with lots of martial arts instead of cowboy heroics, while ripping off classic John Woo stuff but, thankfully, adding a few wrinkles, at least, with betrayal and treachery subplots, turning into an urban chaser into a kidnapping rescue during a $100 million raid on a corporate tower-block vault owned by that standard action movie bad guy; the crooked bloke in an expensive suit.

The kung fu has overdone sound effects, while Snipes knocks down and kills several foes without even loosening his black neck-tie. A woman doctor being held hostage by Zander and Floria complicates our determined hero’s moral dilemma, and provokes a crisis of conscience (sadly, however, agent Marcus turns to the church for answers to his problems, undermining his unsubtle role as the honest protagonist!) regarding his highly-trained, typically amoral profession but, inevitably, it all winds up simply in a rooftop showdown between Snipes and Daniels.

A foregone conclusion..? Yes, and, like the rest of the movie, the predictable finale’s conflict over both stolen money and broken trust is just as unexciting and dully routine, with both performers just going through the motions to secure another pay-cheque. Because, to paraphrase this movie’s promotional tag-line: unemployment is not an option.