Would You Rather

Dir: David Guy Levy
Star: Brittany Snow, Jeffrey Combs, Jonny Coyne. Enver Gjokaj

Desperate for funds and to help her seriously-ill brother, Iris (Snow) accepts an invite from strange philanthropist Shepard Lambrick (Combs), who says he will take care of all her problems - including finding a bone-marrow donor for her brother - if she attends a dinner-party and wins a contest pitting her against other wannabe recipients of his largesse. It is a sadistic version of the titular game, beginning with players being given the choice between administering an electric shock to themselves or the person next to them. When one guest refuses to participate, he's shot dead, and it becomes clear there's no way out, except to go through whatever Lambrick and his enforcers has planned for them, trying to navigate a minefield of ruthlessly-enforced choices that range from bad to worse. Meanwhile, the doctor who referred Iris to Lambrick - a survivor and beneficiary of a previous competition - is having second thoughts about what he has dropped her into, and embarks on a rescue mission.

We only picked up on this one because of Combs, and to be honest, he's the main reason we kept watching it, since he gives his usual, confident performance of a man who is sure he is right, even when he's as nutty as a fruitcake. Coyne, as his main manservant, provides decent support, but you're never given particular reason to root for Snow as a person. Sure, she's got a sick brother and all, so you feel for her situation; her character, not so much? You reach the end, as she's almost as much a cypher as she was at the beginning; other guests, just as John Heard's recovering alcoholic, or even Sasha Grey's Goth psychopath, seem more interesting characters. The makers would, at least, have had to put some effort into making us like them; Iris's sick sibling seems a lazy cop-out. It's not as if the games themselves show much imagination either: in "would you rather", the choice is supposed to be two equally-unpleasant propositions, which is rarely the case here. Still, Combs sustained our interest, even when the plot and heroine couldn't.

[June 2015]

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