By Don Simpson | April 25, 2012
Director: Petri Kotwica
Writer: Petri Kotwica
Starring: Max Ovaska, Julius Lavonen, Outi Mäenpää, Janne Virtanen, Niina Koponen, Miika Ullakko, Maarja Jakobson, Külliki Saldre, Kene Vernik
Would you like to play a game?
Jury (Max Ovaska) spends most of the 24 hours of his days playing Call of Duty in his dimly lit basement bedroom, which is piled high with computer equipment. His gaming addiction is causing his schoolwork and real-life relationships to suffer; everyone, including his mother (Outi Mäenpää) and girlfriend ((Niina Koponen) seem to think Jury is past the point of no return. When his online friends begin to disappear, there seems to be a chance for Jury to return to reality; that is until one of his gaming buddies, Niki (Julius Lavonen), shows up in Jury’s hometown looking for a place to hide.
Finnish writer-director Petri Kotwica’s Rat King may be a taut and stylized Hitchcockian thriller about identity theft, but that does not save it from being incredibly predictable. For example, from the very moment that Niki informs Jury about the horrors of a continue-to-play-or-die online game, we know that it will not be long before Jury logs on. From that very same moment, the identity of the puppet master behind the curtain also becomes all too obvious; but, then again, with all of the red herrings that populate Kotwica’s script, we might assume that we are being led astray once again.
Rat King is an impressively written, directed and acted PSA about online gaming addiction; serving as a diatribe about the naïveté of young gamers (specifically when it comes to online identity theft), the desensitizing effects of violent games on its players, the social awkwardness caused by too much gaming, and the ease of access to dangerous information online. Kotwica’s heavy-handed use of metaphors could use some toning down — especially the over-sized chess board, which tells us that Jury is merely a pawn and that there must be someone who is orchestrating Jury’s every move.