At first, the disagreement---a mere ruffle---hangs on a single word: Can a privileged Brooklyn boy be said to have been armed with a stick? The kid's parents, an embarrassed Kate Winslet and a less-so Christoph Waltz, take umbrage, while the mother of a wounded classmate blinks at the objection. (In Jodie Foster's eyes, her son is now "disfigured.") All have gathered in the latter's comfortable apartment to hash out the incident like adults, while jolly dad John C. Reilly brews the coffee and cruises on a surfeit of levity. It will dry up soon.
Taken from Yasmina Reza's overrated 2006 stage play God of Carnage, Roman Polanski's claustrophobic drama shoots its fish in a barrel with ease, as lefty sensitivity lurches into a forced referendum on child-rearing. Would these people really spend the whole afternoon getting smashed, just for the sake of spitting out writerly critiques of playground etiquette and civilization at large? Polanski, to his credit, doesn't trick up the movie with camera nonsense, and his performers are game, with Waltz's AWOL dad---increasingly proud of his son's assertiveness---taking highest honors. Yet the whole enterprise feels slight, not exactly undercooked so much as lavished with unearned commitment. Watch the director's 1976 The Tenant, and you'll know he can do more with less.
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