What Not To Watch: Con Games
Every movie, no matter the genre, has both pros and cons. There are very few movies I’d say were perfect and could not be improved upon. But there are a lot of great movies that have some cons, the key that makes the movie great is they have far more pros than they do cons.
And then there are movies like 2001’s Con Games…
In this edition of What Not To Watch I am going to take a PRO vs. CON look at Con Games…
- PRO: Con Games features action movie veterans Eric Roberts (Best of the Best) and Martin Kove (The Karate Kid). But considering the level of talent that the rest of the cast possessed, Roberts and Kove looked more like Sir Laurence Olivier and Marlon Brando. Actually Roberts at times looked more like Joe Pesci in Con Games.
- CON: Tommy Lee Thomas plays our squinting hero John Woodrow, a former soldier who goes undercover in a prison to investigate the death of a United State Senator’s grandson. If you are saying to yourself this sounds a little like the premise of Death Warrant, I would say to you that Con Games is like Death Warrant only a million times worse. And believe me when I say TLT is no JCVD, he’s not even a David Bradley or Olivier Gruner… no Tommy Lee Thomas can be lumped in with guys like J. Gregory Smith (Cyber Vengeance), Britton K. Lee (Ironheart) and John Barret (American Kickboxer 1). Thomas even makes Frank Zagarino seem ok.
- PRO: Eric Roberts is not only one of the stars of Con Games, he also sings the song that plays over the closing credits. I wouldn’t qualify the song as a good song, nor would I say Roberts has a great deal of singing talent. But it is an interesting footnote and since it was a part of the closing credits it meant the end of the anguish I was feeling while watching Con Games. This isn’t really a pro, more like a backhanded compliment.
- CON: The story is a convoluted mess. We are supposed to care who killed the grandson of a United States Senator, a grandson who was in prison because he sexually assaulted a 15 year old?!? We are supposed to believe that this old ass Senator is some sort of badass when he is interrogating dirty prison guard Hopkins (Eric Roberts)? And what was with all the betrayals? When plot twists are used just for the sake of having a plot twist, it feels like the only person who thought it was a great idea was the writer or in this case writers. The movie was written by Jefferson Edward Donald (who also served as the director of Con Games) and the star of the film himself, Tommy Lee Thomas. TLT’s best writing work has to be the IMDb bio he wrote of himself. I know it says “anonymous” on IMDb, but nobody but Tommy Lee Thomas would take the time to write a bio on Tommy Lee Thomas on IMDb. Way to make yourself sound important.
- PRO: At first it appeared that Martin Kove’s character Timothy Redick was on the side of good, which would have been a total waste of a guy who excels at playing villainous characters. But as the movie progresses Redick’s true colors shine through and we find out he is in cahoots with Robert’s dirty prison guard character Hopkins and he even attempts to date rape a woman from the Justice Department that was helping Woodrow. That is the dirty and despicable type of human being that Martin Kove should always play.
- CON: A good movie, no matter how ridiculous the premise can always get the viewer to suspend their disbelief. Now I know early on in the film it is mentioned that the prison Woodrow is infiltrating has the highest number of inmate deaths in the country, so overcrowding was not going to be an issue. But I did not expect that there would be around a dozen inmates and around 18 prison guards.
- PRO: At one point, prior to being tortured with jumper cables, Hopkins and Woodrow debate who the better action star is, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Mel Gibson? They even try to start up a Movie Kumite of sorts between T2 and Lethal Weapon. I was happy they mentioned real action stars and even happier they mentioned two of the best action movies ever made. It made me think of those movies for a few seconds and forget that I was watching a total crapfest.
- CON: Good action can make me forgive bad acting any day of the week. But what happens when the action is just as bad as the acting? You get an unwatchable movie like Con Games.
I think the biggest con of Con Games was the money people were conned out of to get this movie made. I’m not going to go off the deep end and say that those responsible for this movie being produced should be imprisoned, but at the very least they should have to do some form of community service.
In summation, Con Games was a crime against action movies.
Now how about some bonus cons from a movie chock full of them…
- CON: Con Games is filled with bad actors but none are worse than Bob Thompson, who played the very important role of Senator Whitmeyer. Fortunately Thompson’s one and only acting credit was in Con Games so I’ll never have to deal with him again. Also… nice hat!
- CON: The opening credit sequence with the computer generated prison bars was a highlight of the movie, but it reminded me of Wrong Side of Town (which also had a stellar opening credits sequence) and any movie that reminds me of Wrong Side of Town can’t be good.
- CON: This is some extremely awkward scene blocking even for a movie about men in prison.
- CON: Con Games features the worst prison break ever, which I guess is to be expected with the lowest inmate count in prison movie history.