The Jurassic Games are why direct to video was invented. This Hunger Games meets Jurassic World mash up would never get the big budget treatment and would likely get litigated to non-existence.
That would have been a near cinematic travesty as Jurassic Games happily sinks its teeth into its wacky premise and isn’t afraid to have a little silly fun. This is a film with an admittedly silly concept, but everyone is so committed to it that it works surprisingly well.
Death Row inmates ranging from school bombers, gang bangers, drug cartel warlords and hit men compete in the virtual Jurassic Games for their only chance to get their life sentence pardoned. It’s no easy challenge as the competitors have to evade dinosaurs at every turn. Death in the game means the inmates’ sentence is carried out in the real world courtesy of a lethal injection.
Among the contestants is Anthony Tucker (Adam Hampton), who may actually be the first competitor who is innocent. Tucker isn’t sure what to make of the other inmates including Joy (Katie Burgess), a psychotic teenager, cannibal Albert (Luke Wyckoff) and the assassin Ren (Tiger Sheu).
In true Hunger Games fashion, the contestants start trying to stack the odds in their favor by killing their fellow participants. Some shaky alliances are formed and betrayals run rampant. After all, only one can survive. I was impressed with the cast’s level of commitment to their characters.
They’re not written with any true measure of depth, but they infuse more personality than I was expecting. Burgess and Wyckoff, in particular, made their characters come across like real menaces to society that needed to be in a gladiator fight to the finish environment.
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For a rip off of two of the biggest franchises ever, the script has some unexpectedly clever moments like the Jurassic Games action figures and ripping reality shows’ penchant for manipulation and forced drama. Ryan Merriman (42) plays the smarmy host who pops in and out of the virtual world with information and special prizes.
Perrey Reeves (Entourage) and Erika Daly are the Games director and lead reporter facing media scrutiny and the warning from an outlaw gang threatening to shut down the games.
The concept smartly covers for any cheesy or inept CGI since it’s not real anyway. That’s low key brilliant and the most imaginative way to cover up for a small scale budget I’ve seen on these projects in a long time. Honestly, it’s hard to be mad at a movie that features a dude fighting raptors with a chain.
Director/Writer Ryan Bellgardt finds the right tone with the film as a satire of reality TV and having some fun with a gloriously goofy concept. It’s outlandish and over the top, but avoids feeling too stupid. And for good measure, there’s even a scene with some Maze Runner elements.
You’re likely going to see this trailer or see the premise and scoff at the notion of spending 90 minutes watching Jurassic Games. It’s clearly not meant to be mistaken for high art, but if you’re looking for a film that isn’t meant to be taken seriously, this is a really fun option.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Uncork’d Entertainment