Nine Dead (2010)

*. The one thing you have to say about these Game of Death films is that they really need a tight script. Basically you just have a group of characters trapped together in a confined space (a single set) for the whole movie, talking. So the talk, perhaps interrupted by the odd burst of violence, has to be good.
*. I’m happy to say that the script for Nine Dead, by Patrick Wehe Mahoney, is pretty good. I don’t think there’s much else to like about the movie, but the story set its hook and kept me interested right up to the end. That’s more than I can say for most of the Saw franchise.
*. The set-up has it that nine people are kidnapped (tasered this time), and chained up in a warehouse somewhere. A masked man informs them that he’ll be killing one of them every ten minutes until they can tell him why all this is happening. So basically they have to work together and find out what they have in common. A clock on the wall counts down the time.
*. That’s a fine idea, and pretty bold too because such a story is nothing but build-up. Will all the loose ends manage to be tied together at the end? Once everything is explained, will it all make sense?
*. Well, it’s not perfect, but in my opinion it did as well in this regard as could be expected. I didn’t think the end was a cheat, and it did at least make sense.
*. Of course I had some objections. These mainly concerned the very real hierarchy of guilt that was basically ignored by the killer. Some of the victims were clearly more culpable than others, like Coogan (the pedophile rapist) and Kelley (the D.A.). Others, like Leon and Sully, seemed to have only the faintest, most tangential relationship to the events in the back story. They had every right to feel pissed off at being lumped in with the others. I like how, when the killer secretly tells Christian why he is being killed, Christian is baffled at how he could possibly have known. Coogan, on the other hand, accepts his fate with a shrug. For him it seems fair enough.
*. I was surprised that the directors of another Game of Death film, Circle (2015), said that they had been inspired by 12 Angry Men. I didn’t see the connection there, but it’s far more obvious in a movie like this, where the sequestered group have to reconstruct a crime and deliver a verdict, only in this case on themselves.
*. So that’s all to the good. This is a decent psychological thriller with a script that puts less emphasis on violence and more on problem solving. As I’ve said, however, there isn’t much else to get excited about. I didn’t think it was presented in a very interesting way, and the acting was only passable at best. Critics were predictably unkind, but I think some of this was just laziness. If you like this kind of movie I’d recommend giving it a try.

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