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SURVIVING THE GAME
1993

poster

FILM

Director:
Ernest R. Dickerson

Language:
English

Running Time: 92'

Main Cast :
Rutger Hauer - Burns
Ice-T - Jack Mason
Charles Dutton - Cole
Gary Busey - Doctor Hawkins
William McNamara - Wolfe Jr.
F. Murray Abraham - Wolfe Sr.
John McGinley - Griffin
Jeff Corey - Hank

Screenplay:
Eric Bernt from the book by Richard Connell “The Most Dangerous Game”

Plot:
A homeless man, Jack Mason, is persuaded by a group of hunters to follow them on a Pacific Northwest expedition, only to discover that he is to be their prey. The six sportsmen include former CIA operatives who seek out the hunt as recreation, as well as a lanky Texan and a Wall Street tycoon who brings along his reluctant son as a sort of rite of manhood.

Cut loose with a brief head start, Mason proves surprisingly resourceful, quickly turning the tables on his pursuers - armed with high-powered rifles - in this deadly game of cat-and-mouse. He must learn to use all of a sudden his street-wise skills to out-fox his crazy trackers, but who is the strongest? Who is going to survive?

Notes:
Ernest Dickerson has been director of photography in many Spike Lee's films.

The screenplay is inspired by Richard Connell's short story “The Most Dangerous Game”, which has been the basis - both officially and unofficially - for previous features, including John Woo's “Hard Target”.

Rutger's Notes:
Every time a film rolls down in these unfolding pages I intend to write something about and I never get to it. I will try to so so and keep it up.
The story of "SURVIVING THE GAME" is not new. I have not seen the other films it was based on. It is a survival story of one man. ICE T's character is a homeless young man who is seduced and chosen by a wild jungle tour operator who organizes games for the very rich few. He is told to make some serious money for once in his life.The truth is different. The game is a hunt. A man will be hunted and the hunter who nails him first will win the big prize. The prize being the kill of the hunted. What a nasty and cruel story.A mans game. A menhunt. The homeless - again - chosen because noone will miss him quickly or dearly and noone who would will be believed. It is a story which I found to be one of the most cruelling. Fascinating to work on such sinister and cynic material. I take great great pleasure and pride in trying to make these characters as sinister as possible and my joy in doing so may just add another touch. I happen to believe that I know parts of the devil so to speak and I dig creatively for space, size and room to get the wings out.

One of the other joys that was within reach reading the script that the leader of this nasty pack of men needed to be quick, flexible and in charge and in my talks to the director I was able to convince him - small detail as it may be - that he should ride a crossbike rather than a quad. It gave him his "brand" in wider shots and gave me the possibility to ride the Kawasaki twin-cylindre 650 which is a bike I have owned and know how to ride. I also felt that the bike has a flavour of the iron horse which sort of reminds me of freedom and knights on horseback, I also felt he needed to guard his hunters rather than lead them. Like fathering them. Only when necessary would he come in to re-direct or give them more clues. In the script all the hunters at some point get corrected by him. He needed a sense of respect from these men - and let's be fair - they were all born killers. My challenge was to mentally control them by cleverness and dark power. This was my goal. And that was the more difficult task. In the story the big surprise is that the poor homeless man outwits them all. A lovely blindside which Mr Burns does not quite anticipate. But even then he still likes the game. And this is when the game is long over.

I made Mr Burns still wear glasses which turns out to be a vulnerable side and metaphore. He is a master of disguise. Just like the devil. He does not wear his horns on his sleeve. He is a very quick thinker. He has a talking parrot as company in his office. Longish ponytail. A love for exotic butterflies. Dead of course. Great love for nature's seasons and laws. Deep hate in the human race. Humans are all for sale. Pathetic. He developes a growing respect and bond with his victim. Mostly because of his surprising talents to survive. His partner in this operations does have a part of his lonely cold heart. And things shift to serious after he gets killed. In the film then the homeless literally rises from the ashes. That Mr Burns flies a twin engine plane and rides his motorcycle to work seemed to make sense. When Burns is cornered at the end and escapes it appealed to me to let him take on the black hood of the church rather than an army uniform. An idea that came to me from early westerns. In a weird way he is a family man to his hunters and he cooks their dinner. Plays chess. Drinks good wine or hard liquor.

The one thing I had the best of fun with was that there is a moment in the story where two hunters are left. In the night Burns decides to wait out how they will possibly finish each other off since they are now the last competitors. In order to do this he decides to hide. Literally close to the eyes if one could see well enough. There was a marine advisor and from talking to him he had mentioned that the art of "disappearing" was part of the best tools to melt into the terrain. When we were shooting in a location where the "war" between the mentioned men would take place I saw a dead bush. Almost 6ft high and I asked him if he could teach me how to - on camera - make Burns dissolve. He said he could. I asked de director who loved it. Another sweet visual way to say that evil can be hiding anywhere. Great great detail. Immensely powerful. I think.

Trailer:


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