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'Hunger Games' review: Tense, compelling film

March 23, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
When the games begin, you're only in the battle as long as you can stay alive.

In a now post-apocalyptic time, "The Hunger Games" is a government-mandated televised competition to the death featuring people in 12 regions of the U.S. - regions that once rebelled against political leaders.

Jennifer Lawrence plays the film's heroine, Katniss Everdeen, who enters the games to save her little sister. Josh Hutcherson is the young man chosen from her region that she must compete against.

I expected "The Hunger Games" to be a popcorn movie aimed at teenagers, but it's not. This is deadly serious subject matter, and the audience takes it that way.

When I saw it, moviegoers kept quiet from beginning to end. It's tense - much more so than I imagined - and it's compelling, as you watch contestants being eliminated in various ways.

The acting is impressive, from Lawrence's leading role down to the supporting players who barely have a word. Wes Bentley, whose character manipulates this "reality show," is fun to watch, and his facial hair should get an award.

The film is complex and intricate, and it demands your attention. Not having read the book, I don't know what didn't make it to the screen. And I don't care because what I saw, I liked.

I also like the film's rugged look and that the action feels real. The script is clever in how it visually deals with this deadly subject matter.

I wasn't crazy about the computer-generated animals that pop into the film at one point. They just felt computer-generated to me and creepy.

Overall, the film is solid entertainment. It's something I didn't know if I really wanted to see, but I'm glad I didn't miss it.

"The Hunger Games" is rated PG-13.


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