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Nemesis Game
2003 - NR - 91 Mins.
Director: Jesse Warn
Producer: Suzanne L. Berger, Matthew Metcalfe
Written By: Jesse Warn
Starring: Ian McShane, Rena Owen, Adrian Paul, Carly Pope, Brian Rhodes
Review by: James O'Ehley
“When is a door not a door?”

I will leave that one with you until the end of this review when I will supply the answer. “Nemesis Game” is filled with riddles such as the one above. Now to be honest, I have an inexplicable dislike of riddles and mind games in much the same way as many people dislike mimes: I really can’t stand the lousy buggers!

I simply hated those Batman comics in which the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder had to solve riddles posed to them by their archenemy, the Riddler. I could never solve and while I’m sure the point was to make the Batman look like the proper detective he was supposed to be, I just felt inadequate. Perhaps I hate riddles because they are so smart-alecky - they are made up to show just how clever the one making them up is.

If you have the same aversion to riddles as I do, then maybe staying clear of “Nemesis Game” is a good idea, but the truth is that it isn’t a bad movie. In fact, “Nemesis Game” is an acceptable way of passing the time even though one cannot unreservedly recommend the movie. You see, like most riddles, “Nemesis Game” is too clever for its own good.

The (overcomplicated) plot: Goth kid-lite Sara Novak (played by the yummy-looking Carly Pope) hangs out with Vern, a comic book storeowner who is seriously into riddles and similar mental gymnastics. Adrian Paul, of the Highlander TV show fame, in a blonde hair do, plays Vern.

You see, after Sara’s mother was killed in a car accident that she (Sara) survived, Sara began asking the usual questions about Life, the Universe and Everything – “Why Does Bad Things Happen to Hot People?” and so forth I suppose. Unlike most people faced by such an existential crisis, she doesn’t stock up on religious literature like Woody Allen does in the hilarious “Hannah and Her Sisters” and like most people would probably do.

No, instead she develops a liking for . . . riddles. Yup, according to the movie Buddhists believe that Enlightenment can be brought about by the posing of riddles. You know, stuff like “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” and “When a tree falls in a deserted forest, does it make a sound?” (Being brought up a good Protestant boy, I can’t really vouch for the movie’s metaphysical veracity.)

Just before you start thinking that you are either in Philosophy 101 class or in “The Matrix Reloaded” again, some creepy stuff begins to happen. Sara starts hanging around at typical horror movie locales like empty subways at night – all in pursuit of clues for a game of riddles hosted by a shadowy stranger. There is a murder, and it would appear that she and Vern are being set up for a crime they didn’t commit.

Fast-paced with an appropriate soundtrack and some atmospheric camera work, “Nemesis Game” boasts some good acting too. More cerebral than similar teenage thrillers (“Urban Legend”, “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, etc.) the movie should appeal to fans of the genre.

However, where “Nemesis Game” finally folds is its plot: it is simply too muddled and illogic at times. When the surprise ending came around my wife remarked to me: “Now what was that all about?”

I just shrugged. By the way, if you believe that the movie’s trailer (supplied on the DVD) gives away all its plot twists, then you are mistaken. It would however still be a good idea not to view it beforehand.

However, the point remains that the plot is simply too clever for its own good. Like riddles themselves. And speaking of which, when is a door not a door? “When it is ajar.” Ho-ho . . .

Worth a rental on DVD when there is simply nothing else you want to see.
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

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