The murder mystery genre is a well-established one — so much so that audiences have internalized the genre’s rules, whether consciously or not. Game breaks a number of rules that the genre demands must be followed, ruining what is otherwise a great-looking and well-acted movie.
Game starts with a promising contrivance. Billionaire Kabir Malhotra (Anupam Kher) summons four people to his private Greek island right at the moment they are most in need of rescue. Tisha (Shahana Goswami) is caught driving drunk, O.P. (Boman Irani) is about to lose his political career, Neil (Abhishek Bachchan) is on the run from Colombian drug dealers, and Vikram (Jimmy Shergill) has a suitcase with a dead body stuffed inside.
Malhotra’s generous offer isn’t quite what it seems. He holds the three men responsible for the untimely death of a daughter he never knew he had. And Tisha is his dead daughter Maya’s fraternal twin sister. Malhotra has enough dirt on the men to ruin their lives, dirt which he plans to turn over to international authorities in the morning.
The circumstances of Maya’s death are divulged within the first 30 minutes of a 135 minute movie, so that’s clearly not the movie’s real mystery. Instead of moving the story forward from that point, the plot is interrupted by Neil flashing back to Maya (Sarah-Jane Dias) performing a burlesque dance number, ruining the flow of the film.
At the fifty minute mark, the true mystery is finally revealed. Malhotra dies alone in his office — presumably by his own hand — and all of his evidence on the men is destroyed. The international authorities arrive, but lead inspector Sia (Kangana Ranaut) is forced to let the four invitees go home. Her primary suspect, for no apparent reason, is Neil, and she begins trailing him to uncover his guilt.
There’s a lot to like about Game. Bachchan and Ranaut are compelling leads, and veterans Kher and Irani deliver as always. Goswami and Shergill make the most of their supporting roles. The movie is beautifully shot in gorgeous locations in India, Turkey, Thailand, England and Greece. There are a few great action sequences and one painful jogging chase scene that ends when the pursuers succumb to sprained ankles and side cramps.
But the film’s plot has some issues that are too large to be glossed over. To paraphrase a familiar axiom about mysteries, the outcome must, in retrospect, feel unpredictable but inevitable. There’s nothing about the ultimate outcome of Game that is any way inevitable, despite a few half-hearted attempts at retroactive continuity.
The introduction of new major characters, illogical plot twists, and ludicrous revelations dominate the last 30 minutes of the movie. Plot twists can’t exist independently for the sake of shock value alone; they must exist in service of the larger story (or else they’d just be called “twists”).
The filmmakers didn’t understand that, after a good mystery, the audience should leave saying, “I can’t believe I didn’t see that coming.” Instead, Game‘s audiences will exit theaters wondering, “Where the hell did that come from?”