I DECLARE WAR is in theaters now, and if you haven’t had a chance to see it yet, you really need to make plans to do so. Devin’s written about the film itself on this site already, of course, and you can check out his review here.
As he put it, “Watching I Declare War is like being transported back to being a kid playing manhunt on the old block, but seeing it all with adult eyes.”
But the question still remained – in a new game of war, which eyes would prevail? The freshly experienced and imaginative eyes of kids, who play War every weekend, or the wise eyes of the adults, who haven’t really played Guns ‘n Bad Guys in decades? Drafthouse Films and the Rolling Roadshow offered us the perfect opportunity to find out, when they staged an outdoor screening of the film, including a paintball game of Film Critics vs. Kids out at Austin’s Stunt Ranch.
In the film, there’s a certain set of rules that dictate the game, where if you get “shot” you have to freeze until you can count off ten steamboats, and if you get hit with a “grenade” (a balloon filled with red paint), you’re dead and you have to go home. This game works GREAT in the film, where the action jumps back and forth between the reality – kids with sticks in their hands – and the heightened world of their minds, where the sticks become actual machine guns and bazookas.
But in the real world you know that if you play a game with kids and you just point at them and say “Pow! I got you!", all you’re going to get is an afternoon full of screaming “No you didn’t! I dodged that bullet!”
And then, “You can’t dodge bullets! They’re too fast!”
And, “But you’re a bad shot, so you missed anyway!”
Aw, it's adorable, isn't it?
So rather than play by the rules of the film, we set up our game using general paintball rules:
1) Two Teams.
2) Each team starts off on one side of a war zone.
3) Each team has a flag that they hide on their side of the war zone.
4) The two teams face off against each other, the judge has a countdown, and they start shooting.
5) If you get hit with paint, you are dead.
6) The first team to either kill everyone on the other team or capture that team’s flag is the winner.
And, of course, the most important rule:
7) Getting hit with a paintball is going to hurt.
For the kids team, the Rolling Roadshow guys asked Stunt Ranch to gather a gang of its most lethal young teens, kids who play at this location almost every week, who have their own gear, and who know how to destroy each other.
The terrifying psychopaths, posing with one of the stars of the film just before assassinating him for wearing green.
For the adults, we gathered a team of doughy, pasty old white guys from this site and other top film-loving blogs. We had Aaron Hillis representing for IndieWire, Brian Walton from Nerdist, Danny Miller of MSN Movies, Matt Goldberg from Collider, and the biggest pussy of all, me, Henri Mazza, repping Badass Digest.
Wearing a bright white t-shirt, like a super smart guy.
But seriously, you guys – I’m a huge pussy. I was dreading this paintball game all day, and logically I KNOW that it doesn’t really hurt that bad when you get hit. But I hadn’t played paintball since 2001, and when I played that day I got shot in the pinky, and it fucking sucked.
Also, I know what it’s like to be picked on by 14-year-old boys who know how funny it is to shoot you with a paintball gun. And I’ve seen this video before:
I was pretty sure that by the end of the game I was basically going to be that kid, just yelling “Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop!” over and over again while a gleeful circle of kids all fired on me.
But while I was dreading that moment all day, I forgot the one MASSIVE advantage doughy aging bloggers have over 14-year-old kids in games of courage. For while the preteens may have the experience and the vaguely psychotic edge to their personality, there’s one incredible tool they don’t have easy access to:
This being an Alamo Drafthouse event, there was beer available on site, so when I arrived and realized I wasn’t at all dressed properly to face all the warriors in full on camouflage, I headed straight to the bar for a pint.
Two pints in, I was forgetting all about my troubles by jumping off of the stunt man high-fall
I had no idea my mouth could make that shape.
Three pints in, I was laughing at how low the zipline was, remembering that one time I did a crazy one in Costa Rica.
Yaaaaaawn. It's like he couldn't even be killed on that thing if he wanted to be!
Four pints in? I was ready for my gun, and I was ready to face off against the well-protected children while wearing a bright white undershirt with short sleeves and plenty of pasty white skin showing.
I won’t claim that I wasn’t still incredibly nervous; I was definitely terrified. I still knew that I hadn’t been hit by a paintball in over a decade, and I was nervous that it would actually hurt worse than I had remembered it.
But I also remembered that the last thing you want to do in a game of paintball is stay still behind a barricade. If you do that, you become a sitting duck, and sooner or later someone from the other team is going to flank you and you’re going to get shot in the back of the head. Or maybe even the pinky finger. And that is going to suck.
So I quickly gave up my place of cover, and rather than running like a madman to the next one, I calmly walked from location to location, watching for any red-shirted kids to show the whites of their eyes when each new fireball was set off.
Oh yeah - the Stunt Ranch guys set off smoke machines and fireballs throughout the fight, because they are awesome.
Tim League, casually explaining that he has done many more irresponsible things than this in his days as CEO of the Alamo.
I watched as Tim League and someone with him tore off to the right, headed right for the fire.
Like he doesn't give a fuck.
They formed an irresistible target, and a group of psychotic kids gave up their location behind a bunch of tires to fire on them.
It was also very helpful that our photographer, Jack Plunkett, kept shooting them with his flash.
I stood upright as I walked toward them, firing calmly into the haze and praying that my paintballs would fly straight through the air. Tim turned and fired on them, too. They fell to the earth, screaming in agony, as we laughed uproariously and turned, looking for new targets. I walked back into the brush, toward the next sound of popping guns, when…
No, wait. That’s not how it happened at all.
Mostly I just wandered around in the field, shooting randomly at people that were hiding behind bushes. There’s DEFINITELY a chance that I shot one of my own teammates when I got scared because there was a rustling in a bush near me.
It was getting dark, and it was impossible to see anyone, and in the smoke that was covering the field even my bright white shirt acted as perfect camo.
But then it was over. I have no idea how, or who did it, but we had captured their flag. I suspect that victory was primarily due to the fact that none of us had any idea what we were doing, and that completely threw off the strategies that the kids usually use to fight effective wars.
I've tried going back and rewatching this video from the fight, but even though we have some awesome footage taken from various players wearing GoPros, it's impossible to determine the exact moment when our victory was inevitable. Still, the important thing is that we won. So suck it, kids. We are still better than you.
Then we all shook hands, walked across the warzone, and back over to the screening site. And I think we all paid a little more attention to General PK’s strategy for winning that particular game in I Declare War, so that we could each be better equipped for the next fight.
I Declare War is available on iTunes, VOD and for digital download now, and it opened in select theaters on Friday, August 30. If possible, try to play a game of war or paintball before you go see it!
To find theatrical screenings near you, go here.