The Film (3.5/5)
Liam, a wealthy philanderer, becomes the kidnapped and extorted target of a vengeful seeking scorned mistress named Alex. Alex’s plan involves the recruitment of her delinquent brother Kip, another scorned lover, as well as mistreated, stripper Jane, and Alex’s estranged and financially-stricken best friend Shelly. Bound and gagged to a chair in a makeshift melee-laden garage, Liam faces the four masked kidnappers looking to score an easy $2 million dollars or else affair incriminating evidence would be provided to his family. Like all sound proof plans, Murphy’s Law always trumps as a series of misfortunate events lead to the downfall for all players haphazardly involved.
From start to finish, the 2014 Joshua Wagner and Thomas Zambeck directed thriller "The Badger Game" never ceases to slow down, diving right into Alex asking Shelly to join her scheme. The very beginning of the film starts off with a black title card explaining the badger game definition, to which this reviewer was knowledgeably ignorant to the fact. For those who don't know the definition, like myself, the badger game is an extortion scheme against typically married, yet cheating men who are tricked into a vulnerable blackmail situation. Wagner and Zambeck nutured the engaging thriller and took it to the next level by adding story alluring torture porn, an external wild card character, and an internal undermining within the group of first time kidnappers.
However, why is "The Badger Game" engaging? Mostly for all the wrong reasons, from what I can tell you as the base of the thrilling story can also be viewed as a layered sexy and suggestive thriller. The cast is nearly constructed on entirely good looking, well-exercised actors and actresses with the exception of Marc Siciliani, who actually looks and plays the part of a slime ball private eye very well and on point, and that's where the Wagner and Zambeck production loses me as I'm too occupied with the fine feminine physiques of Augie Duke, Jillian Leigh, Sasha Higgins, and Aria London and also being extremely envious of Patrick Cronen's super chiseled and rugged structural frame. My attention to the story becomes a figment of memory, lustfully gazing rather upon the topless scenes of Jillian Leigh and Aria London and also gawking at the Sasha Higgins's stripper moves while sporting a frog head mask. The characters put forth actions that wouldn't necessarily be reasonable to the situation. For example, Jillian Leigh's character Shelly agrees to the plan brought about by Alex, who sells her case of kidnapping fairly easy to the hesitant Shelly without much pleading and begging. The directors' stylized perceptions overshadow reality, creating a mockery of the term badger game.
Aside from some cheap character qualities and traits, I'm also discovering that the characters are a bit weak. The characters are not wealthily explained in background, but are allowed to only give the barebones about their various situations. We kind of know why Shelly needs money in order to get out of a rough neighborhood, but this doesn't seem like enough motivation to commit a serious crime. We kind of know that Jane was once a substance abuser, but her past doesn't really characterize her current clean state. We also kind of know that Kip has a rap sheet, but to the extent is a mystery beyond him stating he has a rap sheet. The cast did a remarkable job with their performances, but the girth of their character backdrops don't eagerly strut to the forefront, leaving important pieces to the character puzzles left on the pie dish.
Intervision Picture Corp. did a fine job with "The Badger Game" Blu-ray release presenting it in a 1080p widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, digitally shot, and couldn't look anymore gorgeous in the brighter, more well-lit scenes. The details are fine and not heavily compressed and the image is sharp with only slight aliasing during more active scenes. The darker scenes have very little posterizing due to the digital camera and poor lighting, but for a independent feature, I'm amazed by the resulting clarity.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital audio is clear and balanced, but, unfortunately, the soundtracks laid down by London May and R.J. Gallentine are not interesting and forgettable. The dialogue is up in the forefront, present, and accounted for while the foley work is on mark, well executed, and deserving of the attention. No pops, crackles, or static detected.
Bonus material includes an audio commentary with writer/director Joshua Wagner and Thomas Zambeck, and composer London May. A second audio commentary with stars Augie Duke, Jillian Leigh, and Sasha Higgins. Lastly, a cast and crew interview session during the premiere in downtown Los Angeles that's tough to grasp with the weak mic and audio equipment.
"The Badger Game" will go under the radar as a suspense thriller trying to claim a stake in today's cult films. I am interested to see what's on the horizon for the directing duo as Wagner and Zambeck are able to write and direct a coherent and viable film while adding in a touch of gore and a smidgen of mystery. A rather tame film when considering other releases distributed by The InterVision Picture Corp. such as "Sledgehammer" and "The Burning Moon," but "The Badger Game" doesn't gently lube up and ease into your soul either by gratifying some of the depravities that make us all inevitably human. Recommended.