There's a moment that comes about midway through Ready or Not that highlights both its best badassery and its worst pandering all at once. It's the wedding night of Grace -- a marvelous Samara Weaving, giving a star turn and then some -- and Alex -- the typically ravishing Mark O'Brien, still lugging around that smooth pale skin and those dimples (not to mention the easy breezy sociopathy that he made look so simple on Halt and Catch Fire) -- and things aren't going the way they should. That is to say that Alex only got his shirt tugged at a little, with his getting good and naked being most brutally interrupted. Such violence already!
If you've seen the trailers you know the deal -- and if you don't know the deal, don't read the reviews! -- Grace's in-laws are psychos who force her into a game of "Hide and Seek" with real dead or more dead stakes. If she can make it through the entire night... well, it's complicated. (So complicated it sort of doesn't make sense?) Needless to say she's gotta run. And run she does. She runs, she climbs, she goes about the stab stab stabbing. Once upon a time it was old lace and something blue -- these days it's crossbows and something red verging on purple and black.
Anyway that moment I spoke of way way back at the start comes once some bad stuff has happened but not all the bad stuff -- Grace is tattered and torn and a little beat up, and she finds herself in front of one of those grand and stately mirrors that rich people always seem to surround themselves with. And the movie takes a moment, alongside Grace, to take it all in. The camera pans, we see what's become of her, and the girl strikes a striking pose.
It's sort of that Ripley moment, where James Cameron zoomed in on Sigourney's face in the great big yellow work loader, where you feel that "Fuck yeah!" feeling of rah-rah burn up your gut. That's a hero right there! Only now here in 2019 these moments, well, they've come to feel like what they are and what they are in 2019 is an advertisement for an eventual action figure. Grace, with her shredded wedding gown and her dirty Converse sneakers and her chest crossed with Rambo bullet belts and one big ol' gun in her manicured hands, for all the magic Weaving weaves in the role in that moment Grace feels packaged. If the camera pulled back you might see the plastic casing and the stamps on all her fresh accessories -- the Barbie Dream House gone Gothic and the varied cast of Skipper doll killers. Posable, but predetermined. Limbs bend but don't quite snap.
That is to say that Ready or Not serves up fun, but not danger. Weaving and the game cast (Adam Brody is especially on point as the alcoholic brother who wears the hell out of some suspenders) skip from game square to game square with giddiness, but the board's plotted and the cards dealt before the wheel's even been spun. There's a recognizable batch of outcomes, which is of course part of the fun -- nobody actually wants the Monopoly thimble to grow fangs and chew their leg off -- but part of its limitation too. Maybe that whole thimble thing could've been fun, actually? How will I ever know if they never try the thimble thing?