Stories where people have to fight and kill each other until only one remains have been around for quite some time. And rarely does the pay off have anything more than survival, but in RPG (REAL PLAYING GAME), the players aren’t just playing for their lives, but at another shot at youth.
Terminally ill Steve Battier, played by Rutger Hauer (BLADE RUNNER, THE HITCHER), is a very wealthy man coming to the end of his life when he’s approached by a company with a chance for a second youth. Set in a near future, the company lets him know that by immersing himself into their program, Real Playing Game, his mind would be implanted into the body of a younger person. Besides being an extremely expensive procedure, it comes with a hitch. In order to keep the new body, he must face off in a duel to the death with nine other participants, all vying for this chance at the Fountain of Youth.
Whereas most stories pitting human versus human in a deadly game, the participants are usually captives (BATTLE ROYALE) or volunteer to protect someone else (THE HUNGER GAMES). In RPG however, all the participants are voluntarily involved in the process, all striving to achieve a longer lease on life. This greed for life makes for some pretty cold blooded brutality during the game’s play.
Waking up disoriented, each participant finds themselves not sure how they got where they are, in their younger counterparts, in the secluded ruins of a housing development in Portugal in 2013. Even forgetting their purpose for being there, the ten players meet up, confused and untrusting, until they are clued in on what is happening. They are presented with holograms of their older selves, with biographies of each person. Their purpose, to kill the others, but to ensure it isn’t a quick kill fest, there are rules. Each hour, someone must be killed or a random person will be killed. And upon killing someone, the person that dispatched them must attempt to figure out which older body they disposed of from what they learned before doing the deed. Guess the wrong person and you die.
“Now what?” “We have another hour to kill.”
The guess who nature adds a lot to their game as each participant didn’t have to select a younger counterpart of the same race, nor even the same gender. They know that the younger bodies are of 5 men and 5 women, however the older bodies are 6 men and 4 women. Beyond this and the biographies, they have to deduce everything else while playing. Small talk is used as a tool for survival, causing the players to have to reveal little nuggets of who they are in order to gain trust without giving too much away.
As an overall concept, I dug the hell out of RPG, enjoying the twist of deception. And the young actors did a good job of portraying themselves as a shell housing an older spirit, but especially when the dormant sensuality rears its head and the players decide to use their bodies not just for fighting. While adding some sex appeal to the story, it also adds a few more layers of deception as many use the possibility of their sexual preference as another form of obfuscation.
Cian Barry and Rutger Hauer painted an interesting portrait of Steve Battier, someone that shrewdly earned his millions, using both networking skills and technical knowledge to get further. Hauer did a great job of showing his fear of his pending mortality as well.
With the majority of the film taking place in a modern day ruin, the production didn’t have to rely too heavily on CGI effects, helping on the smaller budget. The area looked great, was shot well, and showcased the character work as well as the occasional gore presented as a player saw GAME OVER.
RPG will be available on DVD and most VOD outlets February 10th, 2015 through ARC Entertainment.