Review: Let the Rip-roaring Fun Begin with ‘Ready or Not’
“Fucking rich people.”
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. Each year there’s that one studio film that goes under the radar, and upon release, blows the doors off your expectations. Last year it was Game Night, the year before that it was it was Life, the year before that was The Nice Guys, and now we have Ready or Not: a film that manages itself so well, so effortlessly, so creatively that you can feel how special it is within the first fifteen minutes.
It is a film that pulls off the difficult balancing act between thriller and comedy without skimping on either, inexplicably running the table on both, and getting away with everything. High concept in pitch and tonally perfect in execution, it has almost no business being this good, but certainly earns it thanks to a great script, an on-point cast, and gleeful moment to moment satisfaction, making Ready or Not this year’s best underdog that I can’t stop recommending to people, including you.
Meeting the in-laws is never easy, but for Grace (Samara Weaving) it proves to be deadly. After marrying her fiancé Alex (Mark O’Brien), she must be formally inducted into the Le Domas family and all their fortunes by playing a one simple game. That game is hide and seek, and what initially appears to be a harmless initiation turns into a deadly game of cat and mouse where Grace tries to survive the night and ward off the family that is now trying to kill her.
What is so admirable about Ready or Not is how rip-roaring fun it is. It’s a thriller, but it’s also a comedy, and a damn fine one at that. Take the comedic antics of Game Night, throw it in a bag with the set up from You’re Next, shake it thoroughly, and the byproduct is something like Ready or Not. Given how difficult genre-mashing is in general, it’s nothing short of a miraculous wire act trying to blend two different things without leaving a bad taste in the viewer’s mouth. Those in one camp want one type of film, the other side wants something else, and threading the needle has been the detriment of many weaker films that have tried and failed before.
But Ready or Not accomplishes this feat with devilish ease thanks to a pin-point script and an impeccable sense of tone. The writing pair of Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy strike the right balance between edge of your seat suspense and humorous applause with minimal hiccups when modulating between the two. One moment you’ll be on the edge of your seat as Grace unknowing walks the halls where in-laws are trying to kill her, and the next moment you’ll be laughing at a cross bow death to the dome at the hands of an inept drug-addled sister-in-law. With a 95 minute run time, it MOVES. Moment to moment, scene to scene, there is no better time at the theater this year than this one. Seeing directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gilletto manage sequence after sequence with such acute understanding of the overall tone is a thrill especially when considering that everything is all so engaging and easy to pick up.
The high concept premise is not without underlying meaning either. Family relationships, how we distance ourselves from familial transgressions, and the sheer act of greed are all in play and on the board. Strife emerges as Alex breaks with his family and tries to protect Grace from their threats, all the while the family itself has to kill Grace in order to save their own asses. Throw in some humorous commentary on the 1% and you have a satirical cocktail that hits all the marks without dampening the fun.
Lastly, I’m throwing a hat in the ring for Samara Weaving who holds this whole damn thing together. As the lead, she pushes the film over the edge with exceptional range and delivery, but she also really sells the material and makes the whole thing work. Plus Andie MacDowell, Kristian Bruun, and Melanie Scrofano provide great supporting work. So new stans all around.
It is something of a rarity now to get a film like Ready or Not, especially with Disney’s acquisition of Fox and the ever looming threat that Fox Searchlight gets shut down. A film that dares to do something different and as unbankable as this is seeing fewer and fewer green lights these days, which is just the unfortunate nature of Hollywood in 2019. But alas, we should take our victories where we can get them, and Ready or Not is undeniably one of them. I haven’t had this much fun, this much pure enjoyment in a theater in a long long time. You should be just as interested in this film as anything else, so get out to the theater and see Ready or Not.