Good thing we got that movie about the rich people hunting down poor folks canceled, right? Oh wait, there’s still one left and it’s Ready or Not, a bloody hilarious take on The Most Dangerous Game that somehow slipped through the cracks in Disney’s acquisition of Fox. The next time you see someone doubting whether they would keep Deadpool rated-R, point them to the goofy, entertaining, and explosive violence of Ready or Not as an example of why they should.
Unlike Universal’s controversial and canceled The Hunt, the predatory elite of Ready or Not aren’t necessarily political. They’re business people, or a business family, the Le Domas clan who made their money in the board game industry, which then expanded into larger gaming pursuits. They love games, but outsiders who enter the family? Well, that’s a different story. Samara Weaving, a statuesque Margot Robbie clone if there eve was one, plays Grace, a bride-to-be on the cusp of getting hitched to Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), who cares little for his family’s old money and their strange traditions. He’s eager to get this wedding over with, clearly worried about something. He offers Grace an out. They can just leave. She thinks it’s because he’s got cold feet.
The Le Domas’, which includes stern and devoted father Tony (Henry Czerny), Alex’s alcoholic brother Daniel (Adam Brody), welcoming mother Becky (Andie MacDowell), and battleax of an aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni), have at least one custom that simply can’t be ignored. At midnight, whoever is being brought into the family must draw a card and everyone must play the game written on it. There’s only one bad card to pull: Hide and Seek. Guess which one Grace draws? While she naively goes off to hide, the rest of the family, excluding Alex, grab a stockpile of ancient weapons and go off to find her, capture her, and kill her for reasons best left unsaid here but teased beautifully throughout by screenwriters Guy Busick
and R. Christopher Murphy.
Let’s just say the Le Domas wealth has driven them to do some possibly insane things to keep it, which is about as deep a commentary on the elite that the film really delves into. This isn’t a particularly rich film thematically, it’s more of a “you see what you get” situation, but the screenwriters pepper enough modern commentary and characterization as they can between the bursts of bloodshed. Grace’s pursuers aren’t hardened murderers, nor are they the type to know what to do with a crossbow or axe, so imagine one of them sitting on the toilet looking up YouTube videos on how to use them. The period armory befuddles them so much it leads to some of the movie’s funniest deaths of the most easily expendable characters, a running gag that only teases the class disparity. We also find moments where it’s easy to sympathize with some of the Le Domas clan, despite our better judgment. Adam Brody is terrific as the conflicted Daniel, who clearly hates the life he’s been born into but is afraid he’s too weak to rebel against it.
This is Weaving’s movie, though, and while she’s not a breakout force of nature like Sharni Vinson in You’re Next, it’s hard not to see her as a badass when she rips off the angelic white wedding dress and straps on a belt of bullets. Weaving brings humor, intensity, and a bit of sadness to the role when she could’ve been very one-note. A foster kid, Grace is eager to marry Alex and have a real family, but she sees all of that taken away in a volley of arrows and spray of bullets. It’s a crazy scenario, one that directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett come up with a lot of inventive ways to kill people off. But where they may be best is when they indulge in the grotesque; such as a pit full of carcasses so rotten you can practically smell the filth, or in a finale soaked in so much blood it rivals the opening club scene in Blade. Where they don’t fully tap into the movie’s natural horror elements is in the bland presentation of the Gothic manor in which the game takes place. It’s pretty standard stuff; dim lighting, dark corners, a few secret passageways, but nothing that stands out and makes this gigantic prison feel alive.
Ready or Not rolls the dice on being a satisfying kill-or-be-killed dark comedy, not especially ambitious or complex. It’s a gamble that pays off. If you’re willing to play the game, you’ll leave happy you did.