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The Killing Game (1987)

Directed by Joseph Merhi
City Lights Home Video VHS

The Killing Game has taught me a lot about rich people. For example, they have seven bathrooms. They like modern dance. They keep parakeets. Rich people are just like you and me!

But they also have problems, just like you and me. For example, when your husband runs off with the maid, you won’t be able to show your face at the country club. Scandal! And so you will hire a hit man to “take care of it,” which will involve a Jacuzzi and a portable TV, two things rich people can’t live without.

Max (played by soap opera veteran Chard Hayward—yes Chard) is a wealthy playboy who hosts high-stakes gambling nights for the hoi polloi. Players throw down stacks of Benjamins–$500, $600, $700, whatever, no big deal. It’s just money you find in some pants. One player looks like Jerry Garcia in a tux. Max gets it on with some hookers, works out in his home gym, and jogs on the beach with his neighbor who always complains about his wife. Then Max falls in love with a struggling single mom. He throws money her way and she admits to feeling like a prostitute. Hey, she’s being honest.

Max gets hired to off a cheating husband and his lover, but this quickly turns into extortion. Which then turns into a misunderstanding. In this movie, misunderstandings don’t involve anything of substance, such as kidnappings, gunfights, or animatronic dinosaurs. There’s not even a scene where a car plows through a fruit stand. Instead what we get is a lot of talking. In other words, The Killing Game contains very little killing and there is no game. There is, however, a flashback where Max’s wife stabs his lover, who happens to be his sister-in-law. It’s supposed to be a “crime of passion,” but emotionally it’s somewhere between jaywalking and parking in front of a hydrant.

While The Killing Game is light on action and character development and plot and just about everything else, it is heavy on one thing: modern dance. Dancers writhe on stage and swish around in their tights, while Robert Z’Dar watches.

Yes, Robert Z’Dar is in this movie.

Yes, he is awesome. Yes, he is wearing a white blazer. Yes, he plays an Italian mobster who spends a lot of time watching modern dance and zero time doing real mobster things, like murder. Yes, he steals every scene.

“If you mess with me in any way, I’ll have your balls for breakfast.”

Z’Dar is, of course, the best part of this movie, but he’s only in a handful of scenes, most of which involves dancers sashaying under a basketball hoop. To be fair, The Killing Game has far less dance than Dance or Die, which was produced by Joseph Mehri. But Dance or Die is far more entertaining; the dance is part of the plot. Plus, a couple makes interpretive love on a motorcycle. In The Killing Game, Mehri decided to take the “dance” part of Dance or Die, but not do any of the “die” part. So what we get is a lot of people wearing leotards and not enough Z’Dar doing what he does best. Once again we have a movie where Z’Dar is underutilized (Quietfire, I’m looking at you), which is like being in a knife fight and forgetting you have a gun.

The big showdown involves sticks.