This movie was made in 2006. I know this because of the copyright date
in the end credits. I also know this because Dylan Minnette is in this
movie. Minnette plays Billy, a prepubescent boy who is involved in
soccer. Minnette starred in a TV series in early 2012 called Awake
where he played a full-on teenager, nearly twice the size that he is in
this movie. In fact, all but two people in this movie, Tom Sizemore and
Tom Arnold, are actors from television. Marina Sirtis from Star Trek: The Next Generation is also featured here. She would have made this movie almost immediately after she did Crash
(2005), which basically sets the template for this one. I wouldn't be
surprised if the Oscar-winning film directly inspired writer-director
Joseph Merhi to make Game of Life. Structurally and thematically, there are many similarities, but the release of his movie now is both good and bad. Game of Life
touches upon socioeconomic issues that are more relevant now, but the
inciting incident and more exciting moments are ones that deal with the
war in Iraq and immigration, which were more relevant six years ago in
which it's probably set.
The movie is about five families, but only one has any kind of real impact. The way the movie begins, there's hope that two will have an impact, but that hope is minimized with the inclusion of the three other families. There just isn't enough time to properly develop all five story lines. We get glimpses. Some of which feel redundant. Two story lines, for example, both deal with infidelity between married couples, and the minor differences don't take away the repetitive feeling.
Despite my love for Marina Sirtis whose character adds a Moroccan flavor that I appreciated and Heather Locklear who is always beautiful and amazing, I would've preferred their story lines not be here. The focus should have stayed on Tom Sizemore who plays Burt, a soldier who served on the Iraqi border. Burt returns to Los Angeles to live with his son, Billy, played by the aforementioned Dylan Minnette, and his father. All the stuff happening between these three could fill a whole movie but it gets short-changed.
I'm not upset that Merhi introduces the story-line starring Richard T. Jones who plays Mark, a car salesman, raising his 10-year-old son, Derek, as a single father after being abandoned by Derek's mother, Brenda. A case could be made that Merhi's film is an interesting examination of father-and-son relationships in opposition to self-identifying ills like machismo and racism. Merhi merely scratches the surface of that examination.
Nevertheless, Merhi ends his movie on a very powerful and poignant image. It's incredibly tragic and sad, but it happened to touch upon something that I actually experienced in my life just last week. At work, Mark encounters a man who is clearly homeless and who asks Mark for spare change. I was on my way to work when I encountered a man who asked me for spare change too. I realized in that moment exactly what Mark realizes then, and most especially at the end of the film, and that's that life can turn on you. Like soccer, in the game of life, you can lose with one swift kick that you barely see coming.
Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 43 mins.