Naomi Watts stars as Anna in "Funny Games," a shot-for-shot remake of an Austrian film.
FUNNY GAMES — ** — Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt; rated R (violence, profanity, torture, gore, vulgarity, brief drugs, slurs)

There are a couple of odd little moments in "Funny Games" where one character breaks the so-called "fourth wall" and talks to the audience.

It's apparently meant to be a reminder that this is only a film and not real life. That's a good thing, because there are some very upsetting moments in this hard-to-watch suspense-thriller, which include violent acts that are done to a child and his mother as well as the killing of a family pet.

Also, unlike some recent "torture-porn" movies, this film leaves the most reprehensible moments unseen (much of the violence is overheard). However, all that shows is that a film can be somewhat restrained and subtle and still be in bad taste.

"Funny Games" is a shot-for-shot remake of Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke's 1997 foreign-language cult hit. This English-language version stars Naomi Watts and Tim Roth, who play a married couple named Ann and George.

Along with their young son, Georgie (Devon Gearhart), Ann and George are vacationing in their luxury, lakeside cabin. The plan is to spend at least a week sailing and golfing with their neighbors.

Instead, their supposedly relaxing vacation becomes a tension-filled nightmare when two strangers (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet) show up on their doorsteps.

The two young men claim to be relatives of their closest neighbors and are polite at first. When Ann becomes belligerent and insists they leave, the duo shows its true malevolent intent.

They hobble George and hold the family against their will, making them answer questions and participate in a series of sadistic "games" if they're to survive the night.

Haneke's direction is assured, and he gets some strong performances from Watts, and especially, Pitt ("Murder by Numbers"), who seems to specialize in playing sociopaths.

But it remains to be seen whether anyone will actually want to watch the film, as skillfully made as it is.

"Funny Games" is rated R for disturbing acts of violence, most of them overheard (shootings, beatings, a stabbing, and violence against women, children and animals), strong sexual language (profanity, crude slang and references), scenes of torture, some gore and blood, brief drug references, and derogatory slurs. Running time: 112 minutes.

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