Thoughts on Tag (2018)

Glenn Kenny is right that, if Tag (2018), a film about grown men chasing each other in public, had starred Black folks, it probably would’ve ended very, very differently; I had a similar thought the first time they break property during a chase. He’s also probably right that he, an erudite and somewhat cerebral film critic, may not be the target audience. I, on the other hand, got just about what I expected, with the biggest letdowns being the scenes with Jeremy Renner doing the Sherlock Holmes (2009) slo-mo bit. Is this what remains of the standalone Hawkeye film?

The film is at its best when it throws adult-society rules out the window: running willy-nilly through an apartment complex and a hospital, or changing jobs just to tag someone (I myself am forever in fear of taking one false career step and thereby dooming my dreams). I do love me some don’t-give-a-fuck films! Tag is one of the least structured playground games and thus resembles free play, a rule-free state. From this perspective, the plot goes against the spirit of the game in its drive to achieve a specific goal, but at least there are four people, between whom can and do arise disagreements, feuds, and resentments, opening up more space for the film to breathe. Jerry (Renner), on the other hand, has no one to share the burden of plot-impetus (minor spoiler: until near the end), and being hell-bent on not getting tagged really kills the joy and spontaneity that enable the best bits and jokes of the film.

However, since this is a mainstream film with mainstream plotting, the central question the film chooses to explore, instead of structured versus unstructured play, is the tension of a game that, to bond friends together, requires them to run from each other. Given how they’re so far apart and only play one month a year, Jerry’s fierce and frankly sociopathic determination to never get tagged should’ve gotten him abandoned from the game a long, long time ago. Then again, he does have the charisma of Jeremy Renner. . . .

Lastly, in case you think that these guys have taken tag a bit too seriously, I ask you to feast your eyes on the spectacle of eternal youth that is professional tag.

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