RPG (Real Playing Game) starts off as an atmospheric sc-fi/thriller with Rutger Hauer playing an ageing billionaire who is desperate to discover the secret of eternal youth. He enters the RPG company, who say they can let him live out his life believing that he is a much younger man. However, there’s just one catch (there always is); he must take part in a real playing game, where he will face off against others who are eager to win the elite prize. That’s when things start to fall apart. The ten ‘players’ then awake in Portuguese ‘ruins’ where one player must die every hour, but the catch is the killer must then guess the real identity of the victim.
The atmosphere built-up in the opening totally disappears when the young incarnations of the characters awake in bright and sunny Portugal . The cinematography is too bright and crisp; it looks more like the pilot for a cheap television series than a movie. The young actors aren’t very good either (they can just about hit their marks) so any depth or nuance is totally lacking. It doesn’t help that they appear to be wandering around the crumbling ruins of a relatively small hotel complex.
RPG feels more like a rough sketch of a film than a finished product – like the type of thing a director would show to get investment for the real deal. I wouldn’t say that directors Tino Navarro and David Rebordão lack talent, but they need to work harder to craft their next production. The script by Navarro and Artur Ribeiro raises some interesting points, but these are either glossed over or totally ignored to focus on the young cast and their actions.
Navarro and Rebordão’s film succeeds in the futuristic bookends. Hauer plays on his sci-fi past (there are more than a few nods to Blade Runner) and it’s shame that his role is limited to just a few scenes. This could have been a Philp K. Dick style thriller, but instead it’s effectively a modern spin on Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians; albeit, minus the whodunnit element.
RPG isn’t quite bad enough to totally avoid, but there’s little to recommend aside from a few impressive moments with Rutger Hauer at the beginning and end. You’ll see a lot worse, but you’ll also find a lot more films out there which are are more worthy of your attention.