It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Michael Keaton is a talker. His strength as an actor is in roles that position him on the scale between literate and glib; even in the wonderful lost film "Touch and Go" (1986), where he played a pro hockey player, he spoke like one who had a novel in him. In "Game 6," he plays a playwright and talks like one, taking pleasure in choosing specific words to evoke exactly what he means. He is also a Boston Red Sox fan, and when the opening night of his new play coincides with the sixth game in the 1986 World Series, he has a lot to talk about: "I've been carrying this franchise on my back since I was 6 years old."
The original screenplay is by the novelist Don DeLillo, and it involves subjects (or obsessions?) he used in his novels Underworld (1997) and Cosmopolis (2003). From the first comes expertise on baseball, pitched somewhere between torch songs and Greek tragedy. From the second comes the Manhattan gridlock and the undercurrent of danger and violence in the streets. The playwright, named Nicky Rogan, abandons a cab after an exploding steam pipe sprays asbestos into the air, and retreats into a bar where he finds an old friend and fellow playwright, Elliot Litvak (Griffin Dunne). Because it is Nicky's opening night, they talk about a critic they both hate; Elliot believes this man destroyed his life, and indeed seems to be entering madness.
This is DeLillo's first produced screenplay, but he has written for the stage, and perhaps his portrait of Steven Schwimmer (Robert Downey Jr.), the detested critic, is drawn from life. I can think of a candidate. Schwimmer has written such lethal reviews of plays that he lives in hiding, is forced to attend opening nights in disguise, and goes to the theater fully armed. Elliott speaks of him in wonder: "I opened a one-act play at 4 a.m. in the Fulton Fish Market. In the rain. For an audience of fish-handlers. Schwimmer was there."
In addition to his fears about opening night and his premonition that the Red Sox will once again destroy his dreams, Nicky is facing personal problems. While one of his cabs was stuck in traffic, he saw his daughter Laurel (Ari Graynor) in another one; visits between cars stuck in traffic are also an Underworld theme. She informs him her mother is divorcing him: "She says daddy's demons are so intense, he doesn't even know when he's lying." There is consolation in an affair he's having with an investor in his play (Bebe Neuwirth), but not much.