The 1924 story "The Most Dangerous Game" has been the inspiration for a lot of modern and very violent films, and "Surviving the Game" is one of the better ones. It's a gritty, exciting and beautifully shot film by director Ernest Dickerson, who shows a real flair here. He really should have had a better career.
The action sequences are well directed, and it's an easy film to get behind. Ice T isn't much of an actor, but he does make for a very sympathetic lead character here. He's a man of few words, which is probably for the better, but you root for him nevertheless. The film is cast with a vast array of great bad guys, and only Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham feels out of place. Rutger Hauer plays a villain like nobody else can. He's made a career out of it, but here he is curiously subdued.
In fact, the best performance in the film comes from a whacked out Gary Busey. His dinner scene story about how he got his scar is an instant classic, and this is one of the most memorable roles of his entire career. Why the screenwriters thought it was in the film's best interest to kill him off first is beyond me. In fact, the entire dinner sequence is very entertaining. Just listen to every single demented line of dialogue. How can you not love it?
The ending, however, feels tacked on and not very well thought out. Having Ice T follow Hauer to the big city to settle their differences could have worked, but it feels like the writers got lazy. It's very anticlimactic, and ends the film with more of a whimper than a bang. For the most part, however, "Surviving the Game" is a lot of fun. It tells an oft told story with newfound style and energy, and a great cast that somewhat disappoints. It's a mixed bag but I can easily recommend it.