2024 | PG-13 | starring Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick | written & directed by Jake Johnson | 1h 25m |

Tommy (Jake Johnson) is a regular, single joe still living at home with his mother when he is approached by a shadowy dark web group (who has hired actor Andy Samberg as their front man) to participate in an online game. For the next 30 days, he will be hunted for sport by people from all over the world and if he survives he gets 1 million dollars. Tommy accepts once he figures out a loophole, that because of the group’s desire to not create collateral damage he can’t be killed if he is with someone else, but finding someone to stay with him 24/7 is a lot more difficult than it may sound in this detached, isolated world, even when it means the consequence is death.

Self Reliance comes at it’s premise with such effortless weirdness that it doesn’t immediately come off as another People Hunting movie as was so fashionable a few year’s ago. In Johnson’s (in his directorial debut) comic send-up of our isolated society he’s turned this horror premise into a comedy, one that is occasionally quite funny with spats of real low-fi invention. While it won’t be anything to shout from the rooftops, it doesn’t fulfill it’s potential and it’s reliance on celebrity cameos gets tiresome, the film is a fast, fun evening.

Finding someone to keep him alive is so difficult for Tommy – his two sisters and mother refuse to believe him – that he hires a homeless man to follow him around. The two strike up an easy guy friendship in the most reliably funny running gag of the film, with the bearded homeless man following Tommy into the office every morning. There is also a great running gag about the production of the internet show and the producer ninjas hiding all around Tommy’s life. The assassins approach in increasingly absurd costumes.

The core problem with Self Reliance may not even be it’s own. As Tommy seeks others to help him with his situation he meets another player, Maddy (Anna Kendrick) and the two hatch a plan to hunker down in a hotel and remain inseparable. It’s a stealth rom-com premise with Johnson and Kendrick having a lot of fun together, but it’s all stopped short by the cultural rejection of rom-coms. If this movie were made a few years ago it would have nourished the romantic tension between the leads and leaned into a story where the two had to come to terms with how real their feelings are and how much they were together because of the game or the money at the end of it. Self Reliance does none of that, handing all of the romantic potential off screen, once again casting Anna Kendrick in the Best Friend role even when she’s the lead of the film. It’s bizarre, and even the most anti-romantic Gen-Zer would have to feel there was something missing at the center of it.

Still, for a comic take on The Most Dangerous Game, Johnson delivers a movie, as they say, on time and under budget. It looks good, it’s funny, it has a thing or two to say and it gets in and gets out.