Facebook Twitter

Big hit at film festival isn’t a film

‘Black Monday’ is a fusion of video game and action movie

SHARE Big hit at film festival isn’t a film
Tara Saunders, left, and Katie Ellwood try "Black Monday" in Park City.

Tara Saunders, left, and Katie Ellwood try “Black Monday” in Park City.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News

PARK CITY— One of the movies most likely to be seen by the biggest audience here isn't playing in front of large world-premiere crowds with red carpets and media buzz.

It's a sequel of a big hit, but it will never even be seen on the big screen.

"The Getaway: Black Monday," instead will be coming soon to PlayStation 2 screens around the world.

That's right, the hit movie nobody's talking about is a video game. Or, the hit video game is a movie. Both actually.

The film/gamemakers, some of whom are in Park City to promote their work, set out to blur the lines between cinema and video games like never before with their London-based gangster action thriller.

It's not recommended, however, to watch this movie/play this game while munching on a bag of buttery popcorn — unless you want criminal boss Vicktor Skobel to slip away.

Members of Team Soho, a creative arm of Sony with employeers stationed in California and London, brought their newest cinematic creation to Sundance because they're convinced this film-loving crowd is the type that will appreciate the game's theatrical production and feel. They are camped out in a Main Street hotel room showing it off one person at a time.

They're not the only gamemakers jumping on the Sundance bandwagon. Nintendo is stationed at the Motorola Lodge with dual-screen portable video game systems, the Nintendo DS and new and to-be-released GameCube games. Microsoft has its Xbox/Fader Saloon at Levi's Ranch where guests can play old favorites and new games. Slamdance also has an arcade set up in the lobby of its headquarters at Treasure Mountain Inn with a half-dozen indie video games.

Festivalgoers, explained "The Getaway" screenwriter Katie Ellwood, are "the kind of people who this game will resonate with. They have an interest in new cinema. Moviemakers like gamemakers want to push the boundaries of interactivity."

The game's director, Naresh Hirani, calls the concept "groundbreaking cinematic gameplay." It's bound to continue, considering Sony recently hired a liaison to make contacts with the film industry.

"We feel," Hirani said, "that we have created the ultimate fusion of a full-length action movie with a first-rate video game."

The original "The Getaway," exclusive to PlayStation 2 systems, splashed on the video game scene in a big way a couple of years ago. It became a worldwide best seller, with 3 million copies sold, including 1.5 million in the United States.

So, of course, a sequel with four different endings was planned. The series is expected to continue after "Black Monday" as well, said spokeswoman Heather Sorenson.

Team Soho's 65-member crew spent the past two years on this project along with $7 million — a budget most Sundance movies would die for.

More than 20 actors were hired to perform the 90-page script. Using an action-capture technique similar to what Tom Hanks' cast used in "The Polar Express," these actors wore lycra suits with infrared reflective sensors to track their exact motions. They even had cameras and sensors tracking each facial move and sound to make it as real as possible.

"Usually actors just do the voice," said Ellwood, referring to well-known Hollywood names who've "starred" in video games. But "The Getaway" is "a full-performance, a total-capture" in which characters have real emotional responses and outbursts. Actors were involved in much of the 18-month production process.

Meaning, if Academy Awards were handed out in the video-game movie world, Dave Legend ("Snatch" and "Batman Begins"), Bob Cryer and Jane Peachy would be sure bets for Oscars. They play the three main characters — Eddie O'Connor, the boxer; Sgt. Ben Mitchell of the Metropolitan Police; and Sam, a thief and comptuer hacker.

The acting part of this cutting-edge video game took eight weeks to shoot in a West London studio. In all, about an hour's worth of cinematic scenes are weaved in and out of play. The quality of the movie scenes were made to be the same as the game to give a seamless feel.

They've also re-created about 25 square miles of London to the smallest detail — from rooftops to the "Underground" subway with satellite technology. Players can take a detour anywhere along the route and explore.

"You could learn how to taxi drive in London just by playing this game," joked the British Ellwood. "London's the real star of this game."

Adding to the movie experience, Team Soho had an original score produced for background music. It also uses lighting and environmental effects (like steam in a locker room) to make scenes seem more authentic. It also keeps the screen clear of clutter of health bars and compasses to enhance the movie feel.

Audiences should be warned that the game has a gritty edge to it. "Black Monday" certainly earns its "M for mature" rating, with reels worth of violence, killing and plenty of potty-mouth words.

In other words, it fits right in at Sundance.

E-mail: jody@desnews.com