Sunday, 14 June 2015



There are no rocket propelled grenades in RPG, which is frankly a pity as it would have livened up this unwatchable but sadly unremarkable Portuguese action thriller with very occasional hints of science fiction. Nor, more seriously, is there much in the way of Rutger Hauer: despite clearly being the star of the film as far as the DVD artwork is concerned, he's only in it for about 10 minutes at the start and very briefly at the end.

The RPG of the title actually refers to a Real (not Role) Playing Game in which aging multi-millionaires pay obscene amounts of money to take part in a virtual reality Battle Royale to win eternal youth through soul transference. Their old selves are dropped into shiny new bodies in the glamorous combat environment of an abandoned Lisbon slum, where they have to pick one another off, last man standing style. But there's a twist: they have to know precisely which octogenarian is inside the buff young avatar they've just murdered, and if they get it wrong they die as well...

Much of the film is therefore taken up with the hunks and hotties working through their strategies, suspicions and shifting alliances in order to survive to the end while trying to work out who everyone else might really be. Which is entertaining enough, though like pretty much any film Rutger Hauer ever made (with the honourable exception of the mighty Blade Runner, of course) it could do with more Rutger. It's a shame that the science fiction elements are minimal: the virtual reality environment has nothing in the way of the shiny neon arenas of Tron, for example.

It's also a frankly baffling idea at the heart of the film: how could, say, a long-established industrialist suddenly turn up at the apparent age of 25 with no questions asked? Or a famous actress who has grown old in the public eye mysteriously being 20 again? On the other hand, if it's all a massive con (as hinted at in the final shots), then it's a deception that surely cannot be sustained for very long. Nor do the rules of the game seem particularly fair to the early victims who've paid a massive amount to be there and are killed off pretty much before they get the chance to do anything in their new bodies.

The violence on display would generally only rate a 15 (which it would get for swearing alone) except for a few graphic and sadistic scenes, which have bumped it up to a restrictive and mostly unwarranted 18. Rutger completists will need to see it, obviously, but despite being perfectly proficiently made there's just not much in it for everyone else. It's not terrible, but it's not essential.


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