Early 90s action films were all about hunting the most dangerous game: bears. John Candy proved they were nothing to be fucked with. Now, if you couldn’t find a bear, then it was the OTHER most dangerous game: man.
Surviving The Game opens up with the hunters shooting themselves up a hobo. On the flip side, we meet Mason, played by none other than the original gangster himself, Ice-T. He’s mobbing around Seattle with his buddy Hank, as they search the trash for a tasty morsel. Hank complains about pussy-assed vegetarians, because there’s never any meat in the trash anymore. See, yet another bad thing that comes from not eating meat: bums starve. Mason finds himself a 9mm handgun and Hank warns him that anytime you find a gun you gotta check the barrel. If it’s jammed, the piece could blow up in your hand. Mason and Hank head to where a ton of frozen meat is kept. For their troubles, they get hassled by an overzealous rent-a-cop whom Mason ends up busting up. While this is going on, someone is watching from afar.
The next morning, Hank is dead because of vegetarians, and probably vegans. And people who don’t own TVs. And Family Guy fans. So, Mason is bummed out and sick of it all. He heads into traffic and looks to head-butt the grill of a semi-truck. A guy from a mission, Walter Cole, who’s actually been watching Mason over the last few days, sees this and saves him. Of course, he’s a fool and realizes that he didn’t save Mason from the truck. He saved the truck from Mason. Anyway, he offers Mason a job, and says to head to his partner Burns’ office. Once there, he runs a treadmill for 30 minutes to prove he has the endurance, and scores the job. He’s told he’ll be a hunting guide. So, because of this film I never take jobs as a hunting guide, because I know they’re just going to hunt me. To be on the safe side, I don’t work anywhere. No one’s gonna get this cat!
Mason, Burns and Cole fly into what’s known as Hell’s Canyon. It’s a massive area in the Oregon mountains. Honest to God, I wish I could live here. Isolated from all the idiots. Heaven. Anyway, the rest of the gang arrives. Gary Busey is Dr. Hawkins, John C. McGinley is oil tycoon John Griffin, and then there’s a Wall Street executive named Mr. Wolf, who’s brought along his son JR.
So, that night they all have a rockin’ dinner, as Doc Hawkins tells the story of how he got a scar under his eye. Honestly, his monologue is probably Busey’s best performance. Well, the next morning Mason gets a man’s wake-up call as a .44. Magnum is stuck in his face. He quickly gets an update about what’s going on, and realizes that the job isn’t what was promised. Which in my case would be fine, jokes on them, because I’d have lied on my resume anyway. Well, Mason hits the woods while the group eats breakfast, in order to give him a bit of a head-start. They start the chase and he doubles back to the cabin, where he discovers a room that’s filled with a bunch of heads in glass cases. The group realizes that Mason has doubled back, so they do the same. Before they get there, Mason sets it ablaze, and also does battle with Doc Hawkins that ends in explosion. Then it’s back into the woods.
Eventually, Mason captures John Griffin and gets him to realize that he’s in fact a good dude. After Mason leaves him, John says no thanks to killing, which promptly gets him a bullet in the head. If I were any of the other hunters, I would promptly speak up and ask if I chose the “not getting shot in the head” travel package, and hope that yes, in fact, I did. Mason tries to take a shot at the group, but shotguns aren’t that great for long range. They make a rush for him as he heads up river. Of course, he pulls the ol’ fake-a-roo and heads back to their ATVs. Before jacking one of his own, he takes the wire of the other ATV that leads to the ignition and puts it in the gas tank. Of course, I’d be so jacked on adrenaline and so impressed at my MacGyverism, I’d end up hopping on the wrong one and fucking myself up. Mason, of course, doesn’t make that mistake and rides away, as Cole hops on the ATV and blows his legs off. Awesome. Later, Mason creates a bridge by shotgunning a tree down. The baddies follow suit, only for Mason to have pulled the ‘oh snaps’ and never crossed. He throws a few rocks, causing Wolf JR to fall to his death. A few hours later, Wolf SR joins his son as Mason snaps his neck.
Burns heads back to the cabin and fires up the plane in hopes that Mason follows. As he approaches the plane, Burns lets a few bullets rip on the gas tank and blows the sucker to pieces. Mason lives, but Burns flies away in a second plane. Me, personally, I’d be really fucking bummed. I mean, MacGyver never had an episode like this, how the hell am I expected to get home?! Priceline wasn’t around back then.
Three days later, back in Seattle, Burns is dying his facial hair as well as getting his disguises together. As he heads out, he gets pounced by Mason, who proceeds to kick the shit out of Burns. He snags his gun and is just about to do the deed, but realizes that he isn’t worth it. He walks off, dropping the gun and leaving Burns a beat-up bitch. Much to my shock, Burns is a man of low moral character and grabs the gun. However, just as he’s about to shoot, Mason gives him a piece of advice that happens a second too late. Telling him that whenever you find a gun, always check the barrel.
Man Movie Tally:
People Beat-Up: 5
People Killed: 7
Swear Words: 134
Slow Motion Scenes: 1
Vehicle Chases: 2
Foot Chases: 3
Broken Bones: 1
Guy Get Girl: No
Fight/ Shoot-Out At Motel: No
Guy Smoke?: Yes
Doc Hawkins: [He and Mason are doing battle outside the cabin as it’s being destroyed by fire. Hawkins throws Mason against the door, burning him. He pulls him off quickly] I like my meat rare!
Mason: [he throws Hawkins into the cabin as it blows up] Try well done, bitch!
Mason: [he’s jammed the barrel with crap. Burns then grabs it and aims towards Mason] Burns, there’s something you should always do when you find a gun.
Burns: Say goodbye [he pulls the trigger causing the gun to blow up]
Mason:…always check the barrel.
Later in the film it says “Three days later, Seattle” but they’re showing Philadelphia.
Released by New Line on April 15th, 1994. Surviving The Game cost about $7.4 million, and was released in 1,025 theaters. It didn’t do too well as it debuted at #6 with a weekend total of $2,907,468 and quickly fell off. In the end, it brought in $7,727,256. While it wasn’t a box-office juggernaut, it’s since had a huge following on cable and DVD.
C’mon, Bennet, Let’s Party:
Surviving The Game is great. Rutger & Busey are two of the best when you want someone to play a psychotic. Ice-T may not be the greatest actor in the World, but he’s far from the worst and has more charm than some of the greatest of all time. The film doesn’t take too long to get into the action, and once it does it keeps it going. Some of the best movies are the kind you can interject yourself into and think about what you’d do if you were in this situation. Surviving The Game is the best example of that type, and definitely a film worth your time.
***3/4 Head-Butts out of 5