The Badger Game Blu-ray Review

An indie thriller about spurned women taking their revenge

The Badger Game is an indie thriller that starts out interesting but takes a few wrong turns along the way. A young woman discovers that her wealthy boyfriend is married and a real sleazebag. She and three of her friends hatch an extortion scheme known in criminal circles as a “badger game” hoping to score a bloodless $2 million off her former boyfriend. Written and directed by the duo of Josh Wagner and Thomas Zambeck, The Badger Game offers genuine suspense and intensity at the expense of its logic.

The thriller is part suspense drama, part torture porn. Alex (Augie Duke) and her brother Kip (Patrick Cronen) team up with two other women in a complicated kidnapping scheme targeting Alex’s former boyfriend, Liam (Sam Boxleitner). The wealthy Liam is a married executive with a penchant for anything in a skirt.

He’s an arrogant, world class dirt-bag that sleeps around on his wife at every opportunity. Alex had been dating Liam without knowing he was already married. Alex forms this four-person team of her friends to kidnap Liam and extort him for $2 million. It’s a crazy scheme that hasn’t been fully worked out by these amateurs. None of the kidnappers are professional criminals. Alex enlists an old friend, Shelly (Jillian Leigh), and another girl hurt by Liam, Jane (Sasha Higgins). Her brother Kip is the muscle on this job.

Like seemingly all kidnappings seen in the movies, Liam’s experience quickly becomes a harrowing ordeal made worse by a bunch of inept, unprepared amateurs. What starts as an ordinary criminal thriller morphs into something much darker as Alex’s team implodes upon itself. Relationships and secrets are revealed that turn everything upside down quickly.

What had been a taut thrill ride is disrupted by an outside element that pushes a viewer’s ability to suspend their disbelief.

A little more polish to the screenplay would have done wonders for The Badger Game. A character is introduced in the middle of the movie that feels horribly contrived for the sake of pushing the story forward. What had been a taut thrill ride is disrupted by an outside element that pushes a viewer’s ability to suspend their disbelief. The cast does make the ride enjoyable despite these flaws. The indie cast carries their weight with dependable performances.

A thriller lives and dies by its twists and turns. In that regard The Badger Game does play its cards close to the vest with an unpredictable, freewheeling plot. It does rely too heavily on blood and gore when the narrative drags. The middle of it does get tedious as the viewer is left waiting for the other shoe to drop. It soon becomes apparent things are falling apart for the kidnappers and that a much nastier fate awaits everyone involved.

The Badger Game is a low-budget indie thriller with good performances but one that ultimately treads down the same tired path seen before. This is a cynical, dark tale that moves from crime thriller to disturbing torture very easily. A tighter story and possibly fewer characters may have made it a memorable gem.

Movie★★★☆☆

Nothing good came before this shot @ 45:24

Severin Films’ offshoot Intervision Picture Corp. releases The Badger Game on a BD-25. The main feature runs 99 minutes, encoded in AVC. The 1080P video is presented in a satisfactory transfer that doesn’t significantly alter the movie’s intended appearance. The digital movie was shot by RED cameras. This is typical low-budget digital cinematography produced by RED cameras with strong clarity in well-lit scenes and poorer resolution in darker shots.

The AVC video encode averages 23 Mbps with moderate banding. Macroblocking and posterization are seen in a few of the darker shots. Noiseless clarity dominates the better interior scenes, shown in crisp picture quality that is sharp and detailed. The gamma seems overly high, the image is slightly blown out.

Accepting the ordinary digital aesthetics as a budgetary limitation, milky black levels are its most serious visual problem. As the film’s scenery shifts to night, black levels collapse into a milky haze. Forget about seeing truly inky black levels.

Video★★★☆☆

The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack makes less of an impact than one would expect for a tense criminal thriller. The sound design lacks that sweeping sound heard in bigger films, though dialogue remains completely intelligible.

This is a front-focused presentation with some minor surround cues and adequate bass. It’s perfectly ordinary and does a serviceable job providing the right audio tone for this thriller.

The optional English SDH subtitles display in a white font.

Audio ★★★☆☆

The Badger Game Los Angeles Premiere (06:24 in HD) – The directors and several cast members give brief interviews at the premiere. We discover a bit of inside info when one cast member reveals they are now dating another cast member.

Audio Commentary with Writers/Directors Joshua Wagner and Thomas Zambeck, Composer London May – This is a solid commentary that feels fairly relaxed. The conversation easily flows and we get a more technical discussion of how things were accomplished. It’s an honest talk.

Audio Commentary with Actresses Augie Duke, Jillian Leigh, and Sasha Higgins – This is definitely a loose, jokey discussion. They have a lot of fun on this track, going off tangent most of the time. Probably the commentary to hear if you can only hear one of them.

Extras ★★★★☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.