November 29, 1993 12:00 PM

Harvey Keitel, Madonna, James Russo

This is a stupefyingly bad movie. And boring. And pretentious. Actually, it’s two stupefyingly bad movies, because Dangerous Game is really a movie within a movie and it is a tough call to say which one is worse.

Game is the latest collaboration by the feverishly stylish team of director Abel Ferrara and screenwriter Nicholas St. John (King of New York). Here, the two indulge in some serious navel-gazing. Game is about a film director’s (Keitel) shifting relationships with his wife (Nancy Ferrara, spouse of Abel) and two leading actors (Russo and Madonna) as he makes a turgid drama about a hard-drinking, drug-taking, sex-crazed husband who loses it when his wife finds religion. Keitel’s character, too, tipples heavily, sleeps around and feels as if his life is slipping out of his control. And that, folks, in all its obviousness, is all there is.

The contrasts and the parallels between cinema and life have been drawn before, certainly with far greater grace, wit and style, by Francois Truffaut in Day for Night (1973). As for the cast, the characters they play are so repellent and boneheaded that no one emerges with honors. Madonna remains a singularly uncompelling movie presence. Russo rants and raves, to little effect, and even Keitel can’t surmount such scenes as the one where he has to seduce Madonna by warbling Harry Chain’s “Taxi.” (R)

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