“Ready or Not”

by DAN LYBARGER Special to the Democrat-Gazette | August 23, 2019 at 1:40 a.m.
Ready or Not
82 Cast: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Nicky Guadagni, Eyse Levesque, John Ralston, Liam MacDonald, Ethan Tavares, Hanneke Talbot, Celine Tsai, Daniela Barbosa
Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Rating: Rated R for violence, bloody images, language throughout and some drug use. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Balzac cautioned that behind every great empire there is a crime. The one that made the Le Domas clan wealthy has stayed with them for centuries.

For Grace (Samara Weaving), who grew up in foster homes, marrying into this patrician family seems like a chance to finally have the home that she has been denied.

Nonetheless, she quickly discovers why her fiancé Alex (Mark O’Brien) spends so little time with them. New arrivals into the family must play a game on their wedding nights, and Grace draws a card informing her that she’ll be playing hide and seek against the rest of the family.

What Alex has failed to tell her is that clan has made its fortune off of games and consider her participation essential. He also skipped the part where all of his relatives will be hunting for her with vintage weapons and are determined to kill her before sunrise.

If being unarmed isn’t enough of a challenge, Grace’s bridal gown makes her stick out in dimly-lit rooms and prevents her from running quickly enough to avoid danger.

Screenwriters Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy coax dark laughs from demonstrating the Le Domases are as vile as their bank accounts are fat. They don’t even bother to hide their issues with substance abuse. What’s the problem if you can afford it?

The screenwriters almost wear out a recurring joke when Grace survives because the family is so out of practice with crossbows and muskets that their aim is worse than that of the stormtroopers in Star Wars. While the axes and daggers can still wound, Grace can take comfort that she has that slight advantage over people who know the mansion better than she does.

Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (Devil’s Due) keep the pace quick and the gore so over-the-top it’s more giggle-inducing than horrific. With the exception of Alex and his gloomy brother Daniel (Adam Brody), the family members are so self-important and bumbling their difficulties inspire no empathy. That said, the flamboyant Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni) is as entertaining as she is hateful.

This bunch couldn’t have succeeded without making some sort of Faustian deal. It’s obvious they don’t get by on merit.

Weaving projects just enough steely resolve to make viewers believe she could survive an armed standoff with no weapons of her own. The script does have some wonderfully cynical bon mots but too often settles for gruesome demises that get repetitive. We already know the Le Domases aren’t that bright, but one would think they might have something to say other than F-bombs.

The setup for Ready or Not is similar to Alexander Mackendrick’s The Ladykillers, where a ruthless crew of veteran criminals (led by Alec Guinness) finds themselves unable to neutralize a seemingly frail old woman (Katie Johnson). Because Johnson and Weaving command audience sympathy, the filmmakers don’t have to push the Grand Guignol too hard to get viewers laughing.



Posted in

Leave a Comment

Dan Lybarger is a freelance film critic and writer whose work has appeared in The Kansas City Star, The Pitch, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Cineaste and other publications.