Ready or Not
Updated: Jul 12, 2021
When Alex, the middle child in the wealthy Le Domas gaming dynasty, gets married to the love of his life, Grace, the ceremony is incomplete until Grace participates in the most important family ritual: after the wedding, she is told to pull a card from a special box, then they will play whatever game is on the card. Unfortunately for her, the worst possible outcome is realized when she draws Hide and Seek. She soon discovers that being found will have deadly consequences, so she must stay hidden to make it through the night.
Ready or Not is as bizarre as that description makes it sound. It is messy, yet its headlong energy and single-minded focus on its goofy premise constantly keep things moving. It is amusing, fast-paced, violent and entertaining. It is a horror/comedy that actually spends time establishing its story and location instead of just tossing viewers into the mayhem. That makes it easier for the screenplay to set up the gags. It might seem like I loved this movie, but I merely liked it. It repeats itself a little too much in terms of story, jokes and violence and does not use its cast to its full potential. However, it is clever and surprising enough that I was suitably entertained throughout.
A movie about rich people hunting a woman for what they see as their own survival sounds inherently political. In theory, it is. In practice, only sort of. The way they view her as an object and callously dismiss their maids set up class and gender conflicts. Though Grace does show herself to be a tough, smart, witty, action-heroine, this is not a specifically feminist story. She happens to be a woman; the setup makes it clear their prey could just as easily have been a man. The “rich protecting themselves at the expense of others” angle is a lot more obvious, yet not much is done with it beyond several “rich people are eccentric” jokes. It starts off looking like a satire, but does not follow through. The themes are buried in favor of the action.
While the tone is dark, everyone involved seems well aware of how ridiculous it all is. Even the serious scenes lean toward the strange. It never quite goes over the top, though I kind of wished it had. Only a few members of the cast really go for it. Samara Weaving is an engaging, likeable, lead. Her Grace is funny and cool in equal measure. Henry Czerny, as Alex’s dad, is intense and threatening. He holds absolutely nothing back; the right choice for this material. Kristian Brunn, as Alex’s brother-in-law, is the perfect amount of buffoonish. His total lack of experience in this type of situation may be the movie’s best running gag. The strongest performance comes from Adam Brody as Alex’s older brother. He would rather drink and make sarcastic quips than join in the hunt. He shows more depth than anyone else, adding some stakes to the bloody thrills.
Sadly, Mark O’Brien, as Alex, and Andie MacDowell, as his mom, do not fare nearly as well. He is pretty bland and she seems unsure how to balance the grim plot with the dark humor. O’Brien has an important arc, but it comes off as arbitrary because he is never given the opportunity to fully express his feelings. MacDowell is mostly a straight-woman bystander. A real waste of a talented actor.
My opinions on Ready or Not (91 minutes without the end credits) are complicated. I enjoyed it despite being completely cognizant of its shortcomings. It is exciting and funny even though the jokes are relatively safe and the plot only really has the one idea. The cast is fun, except they are also constrained by the tone and underdeveloped characters. Okay, I am being contradictory. As I watched it, I was mainly focused on its positive qualities. It is fun in the moment; only afterward did most of these things occur to me. “Fun in the moment” seems fitting for a horror/comedy about a game of Hide and Seek with a high body count.
3½ out of 5
Samara Weaving as Grace
Mark O’Brien as Alex
Adam Brody as Daniel
Henry Czerny as Tony
Andie MacDowell as Becky
Kristian Bruun as Fitch
Melanie Scrofano as Emilie
Elyse Levesque as Charity
Nicky Guadagni as Aunt Helene
Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Written by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy