The Prophet's Game (1999) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Dennis Hopper is rapidly joining Peter Weller, Roy Scheider, and Rod Steiger on that list of guys who used to be in real movies. This is the second obscure unreleased Hopper movie I've seen in a month.
Here's the premise: Hopper is a retired homicide detective who once killed the very serial killer who took Hopper's daughter as one of his victims. Conveniently for our plot, Hopper has no memory of the incident when he killed the guy.

He is dragged out of retirement by phone calls from a "copycat", who eventually makes Hopper wonder if he ever really got rid of the first one.


Background nudity in a strip club. The stripper's "real' name is Zoe. Cleavage from Shannon Whirry.
So Hopper migrates from Seattle to LA to check it out, and takes a room in a motel pictured in a postcard he received from the killer. The motel has a flashing neon "M-O-T-E-L" light outside the window, as per standard grade b film noir requirements. The mainstream cops, led by Worf as the chief of police, try to work with Hopper because they don't want him wandering around town unsupervised. They assign Stephanie Zimbalist to babysit him, and the two of them end up working together on the crimes.

The name of the film is based upon the serial killer's mad game, which involves placing clues on the internet. The prophet moves from city to city, lures contestants into playing his game about identifying a celebrity from a riddle, then kills that celebrity and takes body parts if the questions aren't answered correctly. His game is called the Prophet's Game because he "predicts" the next person to die with a riddle.

Sounds like an old SCTV skit, where the contestants either won lovely prizes or eternal damnation. "If you're right, you win the lovely bedroom suite, but if you're wrong - the demons will rend your flesh!"

Anyway, this movie was a pleasant surprise. Dennis Hopper was absolutely terrific in this. He played neither of his usual characters - he wasn't the forlorn midwestern loser or the psychopathic killer. He played a man who wasn't sure what he did that day he "killed" the killer, and who was tortured by the knowledge that if the killer is still alive that he beat an innocent man to death in a fit of rage - or did he? What he really did that day, and to whom, is half of the mystery. He shows a high level of emotions within the range of a normal human being who would have been in the situation. I was really impressed and touched by his performance.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • full screen only

  • no significant features

The other performers also responded capably (good to see Stephanie Zimbalist again), and I also enjoyed following along with the game and seeing what the real deal was in the original confrontation between Hopper and the killer. The answer to the killer's identity was planted inside the film, and it could have been deduced, but I didn't piece it together. The main point is that the answer did make sense once they revealed it.

We all know this isn't The Maltese Falcon, but I don't know why Apollo felt this film deserved a 38/100. The users' scores are about right - it's a two and a half star movie that you might like if you like this kind of movie.

The Critics Vote

  • Apollo 38/100

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.3, Apollo users 60/100.
  • With their dollars ... no theatrical release that I know of, no widescreen version.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is. 

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C. Adequate genre picture, reasonably tight script, quite well performed, filmed in a workmanlike manner.

Return to the Movie House home page