We've seen the set-up before: a nice middle-class family held captive by a pair of psychopaths. This time, however, things aren't going to turn out as Hollywood has primed us to expect. In his remake of his own 1997 feature, writer/director Michael Haneke uses the viewer's expectations against him or her. He makes a bold statement about how the indoctrination of mainstream thrillers has made violence and terror acceptable for entertainment by crafting a motion picture that is anything but entertaining. Funny Games is openly, intentionally unpleasant and is not for anyone in search of light fare. This is tough movie that sticks the knife in, twists it, then leaves it there. It's thought-provoking material but I suspect the audience is small that won't be repulsed by what's on screen.
In re-making Funny Games, Haneke has elected to use his previous Austrian feature as a direct template. The 2008 version of the film is almost a shot-by-shot recreation with identical dialogue (translated to English). There are minor differences: Naomi Watts spends a fair amount of time in her underwear, Tim Roth makes his character less demonstrative, and the location has been transplanted to Long Island. In general, however, those who have seen the 1997 feature may find this one to be little more than a curiosity. Haneke has used this approach because he is aware of the subtitle phobia that afflicts most American movie-goers and he wanted that barrier to be removed. The film will still have a limited audience but, at least in theory, it could be shown beyond the art house circuit. Also, by adhering rigorously to the original screenplay, Haneke avoids the misstep taken by George Sluizer, who prostituted his movie when re-making The Vanishing for a North American audience.
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