By now, the general conceit of RPG: REAL PLAYING GAME is oh-so-familiar to genre fans: a group of strangers are forced to kill each other in an interactive game run by a sinister entity. Whether it be BATTLE ROYALE, THE HUNGER GAMES, THE RUNNING MAN, GAMER or the multitude of other films running with that concept, RPG does have select differences in its execution that makes it stand out more to the horror crowd. But even despite some ingenious flourishes, interesting character drama and the constraints of its budget, the conceptual familiarity is the least of RPG’s problems.

Before we go into how the film does and does not work, let’s shed some light on RPG’s story: a group of aging billionaires are given the chance to regain their youth under the stipulation that they participate in an interactive game which requires one of them to die on the hour, every hour. Of course, paranoia, desperation and ruthlessness all play a part as they begin to get into the competitive spirit of the game, but at the same time, their shrouded identities make their choices all the more difficult. RPG is violent, at times brutally so, and there’s much of the narrative that is clever and subversive, which is a shame considering how weak the direction of the film is.

While RPG leans heavy on suspense, it also has a ton of dialogue as character’s decide who to trust and who to target; unfortunately, much of the dialogue serves as unnecessary exposition into each character’s backstory, or as insight into the game itself. Furthermore, the film’s almost entirely international cast sometimes has difficulty bringing said wordy, cerebral dialogue to life, which definitely strains on the performances as a whole. But even despite those hurdles, RPG keeps the film moving in an interesting direction due to its core concept; one just wishes there would be more to our characters than what’s offered.


It’s unfortunate that co-directors Tino Navarro and David Rebordao didn’t spend more time refining their script, written by Navarro and Artur Ribeiro, especially considering there’s so much to like within the film as is. RPG is, at times, thrilling, engaging and bloody, and the actors are committed to their individual performances with admirable bravado. However, Navarro and Rebordao seemingly focus more on creating atmosphere based on their singular locations than creating a group dynamic that felt organic or claustrophobic, which leaves RPG somewhat forgettable and structurally messy.

As for performances, despite many performers speaking beyond their natural tongue, there are some performances that are rather great. Cian Barry, Genevieve Capovilla, Pedro Granger and Christopher Goh are all particularly strong in the film, while Nik Xhelilaj does well too even if his line deliveries are somewhat clunky. However, the film’s MVP is Alix Wilton Regan, whose deceptive performance as a particularly hostile and resourceful player is easily the most interesting character work in the film. And for those wondering, yes, Rutger Hauer does show up in the film, bookending RPG as one of the aged billionaires with much less screentime than one might expect from his prominence on the film’s poster.

Overall, RPG: REAL PLAYING GAME is violent, composed and just short of compelling, and is definitely more agreeable than most DTV genre fare, but is not strong enough to warrant a full recommendation. While horror fans will appreciate the places the film goes, as well as some of the nastier SFX work, RPG has too many missteps in terms of its direction, hampered by unfortunately obtuse dialogue and casting missteps. While RPG: REAL PLAYING GAME works as a genre-bending pick-’em-off flick of sorts for those with low expectations, the film simply doesn’t connect as a fun thriller, and who wants to play a game that isn’t fun?


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About the author
Ken W. Hanley

Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel “THE I IN EVIL”, and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.

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