Self Reliance

January 12, 202450/1005 min
Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Andy Samberg
Written by
Jake Johnson
Directed by
Jame Johnson
Run Time
1h 25min
Release Date
January 12th, 2024
Overall Score
Rating Summary

It is often said that life is a game, and when you think about it, it really is. I mean, there always seems to be a winner or loser to a given situation; we just don’t get the trophies or ribbons at the end. David Fincher’s The Game explored adding a little drama into our everyday lives, where real life and a game are infused together, making it hard to see which one is which. What if, though, it’s not just about blending real life with a game, but instead, someone was trying to kill you? That is what Jake Johnson has done with Self Reliance,giving the term ‘you play to win the game’ a whole new meaning.

All of Tommy’s (Jake Johnson) days seem to be filled with pretty much the same routine. With not much moving up, and mostly down. It would be easy to blame that on a breakup from a long-term relationship, but that wouldn’t be true, as it appears that he has always been like this. The beginning of change comes in the form of a black limo with actor Andy Samberg in the back of it. Samberg is there to inform Tommy that he has been chosen to participate in a game. Caught up in the celebrity of it all he accepts. Tommy takes the chance and soon finds out that the “game” consists of be hunted for 30 days. If he lives, he gets a million dollars. There appears to be a loophole in the rules, though; the hunters can only kill Tommy if he is alone. So Tommy’s plan is simple: make sure there is always someone by his side for the next thirty days.

Self Reliance plants its feet in a few pools, as it’s a comedy, a thriller, a drama, with a little mystery thrown in for good measure. Satire is also a main ingredient, and when it’s at its best, you are laughing at Tommy and the situations the game has put him in. Johnson as Tommy works because he is relatable and often endearing, but it’s his interactions with the other people when he shines. Those other characters are led by Anna Kendrick, who plays Maddy who is also playing the game. Although she might have the most time on screen, people like Andy Samberg, Wayne Brady, and Christopher Lloyd stop by for small, but fun roles.

Self Reliance is a more than commendable directorial debut from Johnson. There is a good amount of humor with some tension built in as well, but for what it does well, it also has a hard time finding that sweet spot between the two. I still think it works, mainly because of Johnson and his supporting cast, especially Kendrick, with whom he has great chemistry. I, for one, would love to see another film with those two as the leads. So if you need a chance to break out of a movie rut as they feel like they all start to blend together too easily, may I offer Self Reliance to break that trend.

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