Movie Review: It’s just a game to gamers — “Murder Bury Win”

Here’s a fun little cover-up-a-killing thriller set in the cutthroat subculture of board games and their creation.

“Murder Bury Win” sports a few flashes of wit and some engaging characters, but lacks the pacing and punchiness that might have put it over the top. In a “games” sense, call it a draw and give everybody a do-over because this is too promising in a “better luck next time” sense.

Chris, Adam and Barrett are board game nerds who have this concept they’re personally beta-testing as they try to raise funds via gaming’s version of GoFundMe or Kickstarter. But it’s slow going.

And the game? Even they have to see it “needs work.” Game store manager Chris (Mikelen Walker) and sensitive Barrett (Henry Alexander Kelly) have to tone down antic-Adam (Erich Lane) and his more psychotic murder fantasies. And as we watch them do a role-playing walk-through, even we can see that bear traps and fingernail cutters aren’t the most “practical” murder weapons.

That’s when Adam is contacted by a mysterious stranger who asks mysterious questions, followed by making a mysterious proposal. Come to his place in the woods so they can “discuss” “Murder Bury Win.”

We figure out that the secretive recluse is their indie gaming idol, Victor von Stubbs (Craig Cackowski) long before they do. We figure out his “game” quickly, as well, as he shifts from expertly diagnosing the “impractical” problems of their game, to asking questions that take on the air of cover-my-tracks menace.

Yes, he wants their game. No, he has no intention of paying them what it’s worth. They barely have time to reject this when an “accident” happens. Adam is the first to figure out that thanks to their presence, their fingerprints and bloody hands and their “recent (Internet) search history,” if they call the cops, they will be the only suspects the police will need. And when the crazy guy talks, the others reluctantly find themselves included in his scheme.

“We’re experts in murder,” he crows. “We made a game about it!”

Adam’s got all these “rules” he figures they’ll go by. Problem one? “Rule 5, work out your alibi and confirm it YESTERDAY,” should have been “Rule 1.” Problem two? They “made a game,” but it’s terrible. That’s actually a bigger deal than it should be because it’s so bad no one should be deluded into thinking “We GOT this.” And problem three? Adam’s an impulsive nut, and they’re sucked into following his lead because he starts taking rash steps to “dispose of the body” and whatnot.

Here and there, “Murder Bury Win” gets up the manic head of steam it needs to succeed as a dark comedy. Think of the first act of “Knives Out!” That’s your template.

But this film’s default mode is lumbering and slow. There’s talk and debate and “unforeseen complications,” with grisly tasks to accomplish at the end of each debate, so much so that you wish these three low-heat actors would just get ON with it.

The best scene, the one with the most tension and liveliest banter, is the one with V.V. Stubbs. Perhaps a little more of that was in order.

I like the idea, and any movie set in a weird subculture is automatically engrossing. More of this “board game universe,” including other obsessives, would have helped. The characters are amusing as “types,” but rather blandly played.

And the finale is downright half-assed.

But there’s promise here, and I think another crack at the concept could be a winner. Let’s hope nobody lures them to a remote cabin and bribes them out of their pitch.

MPA Rating: unrated, violence

Cast: Mikelen Walker, Erich Lane, Henry Alexander Kelly, Craig Cackowski

Credits: Scripted and directed by Michael Lovan. A Head Turner Films release.

Running time: 1:30

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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