Rules of the Game (2022) artwork

Rules of the Game (2022)

14th March 2022

It's not personal, it's just business, right? Under a company's shiny happy surface, a new recruit cracks open the doors of a hidden scandal and the problems of workplace sexual politics.
Maxine Peake, Rakhee Thakrar, Alison Steadman, Susan Wokoma, Kieran Bew, Dario Coates, Callie Cooke
Drama, Television
3 hours
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Sam, who's been at the company since she was 16, is a hard-headed manager at Fly, a family-run sportswear company in the Northwest of England. It's a growing company with a global reach, has a good image and is looking at going public on the stock market. Beginning as a market stall, and allegedly now threating the supremacy of JD Sports, it looks to be a company that's going places. So, with investors eyeing up its potential, everything needs to be in tip-top condition without any problems - on, or off, the books to dissuade those money spinning investors, and bumper payday for Fly's directors.

So when Maya, a new female HR director who has replaced the previous male director who left in strange circumstances, arrives for her first day at Fly, she soon finds herself clashing with the abrasive Sam. With that, Maya soon discovers that, far from having the friendly family run company image, there is something toxic going on in the background, with highly inappropriate office banter and late night office "meetings".

Maya's first day doesn't get any better when she is shown a security video showing staff members engaging in sex in the boardroom. After pulling Tess, one of staff members caught on video, into her office for a friendly chat she quickly finds a staff member who is not only apparently drunk at work but has suffered serious mental stress from previous work incidents. Incidents which are brushed aside by Sam, or HR has no such record of. About the only thing on the HR record for Tess is a NDA agreement. Something just doesn't feel right.

Intent on shaking up the outdated and toxic lad-culture, Maya starts looking into historic cases of misconduct, but is soon faced with stony silence and resistance from members of the team. But as Maya begins to unpick the various goings on in the workplace, dark secrets begin to emerge about a female employee, Amy, who died in mysterious circumstances after a company party some years ago.

However, when Sam arrives at work one day to find a dead body in the office reception Sam faces some tough questions from the police, and finds herself pulled in all directions: by her loyalty to the company, by her own family, by Maya, and by new revelations about the death of Amy, ten years ago.

Two deaths, one toxic workplace. Just how culpable is the company - and more importantly, how guilty is Sam?

For a terrestially broadcasted television programme the picture is reasonable enough with a fair amount of detail. However, I felt that it was a little too washed out at times with some excessive amounts of contrast which reflected badly on some of the darker and nighttime scenes.

Never the less, images are clean and there's no sign of print damage, pixelisation or outlining from the rather average bit-rate. All in all, all pretty standard stuff for a lengthy television production requiring some good compression - or low bitrate - to fit the release onto a single DVD.

As a terrestrial television series it is hardly surprising to discover that the sound is presented as a simple 192 Kbps Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Whilst it's more than capable for the production, with the dialogue clear enough throughout, there were times where music blaired out at an annoyingly high level.

There's no need for your surround system here, your soundbar or television speakers will be more than good enough, but just don't go playing it too loud at night.

As seems to be the norm these days for television releases, the menu system is a static and silent affair. Once you get past the promo-video for Acorn's streaming service, there's the ability to view the four episodes on an individual basis whilst there's the ever welcome additional material in the form of a Behind the scenes featurette and a rather uninteresting Picture Gallery.

I certainly wasn't expecting to find too much depth to the Behind-the-scenes featurettes, but I was quite surprised to discover not one, but nine featurettes of differing lengths. However, rather than being able to play them all in one go, you have to select each one in turn from the menu.

The first is the six minute What is Rules of the Game?. This featurette does exactly as it says on the tin - with director Jennifer Sheridan and the main cast members discussing the story line. Along with various clips from the show, with the cast members all having serious looking faces, you also get to see a few behind the scenes clips, where the keen of eye will spot numerous occasions where filming must have taken place during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Next up is the two minute What Happened to Amy featurette that provides a brief bit of background on Amy and her unfortunate fate. Again, we're provided with a few clips from the show.

The three minute Set Tour is just that - a tour of the set. These usually provide some golden nuggets of information, and this one is no different, revealing that the set was actually an empty office block to which they fitted out and made it look like a working office environment. I know it was filmed in Manchester, it's just a pity they didn't reveal where in Manchester it took place.

The brief two minute Sam vs Maya featurette looks at the abrasive relationship between the two main characters. However, if you've already watched the programme, you'll already know about their feisty relationship and nothing new will be revealed here.

Following on from the Sam vs Maya featurette, there are some more short, but detailed, character overviews for Gareth, Maya, Owen, Sam and Tess.

With streaming services becoming all the rage, it's great to see that recently broadcast television series are still being made available on physical media. With the likes of Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Sky and Disney all ploughing tens of millions into their own productions, unless you end up subscribing to every service going - and at a hefty monthly cost - you can end up missing out on some cracking TV as they shun a physical release to keep that air of "exclusivity" (I'm thinking Netflix's Ozark and Stranger Things for one).

Even though Acorn also have released their own streaming service, it's still wonderful to see them continuing with physical releases such as Rules of the Game, and as a fan of physical media, long may it continue to be the case too.

But what makes this release even more appealing is the fact it contains some special features too. Whilst many physical releases are simply vanilla affairs, it's always nice to see some extra value in the package to tempt you into a purchase and a home on your DVD shelf.

So, overall, as a show; is it worth a watch?

Inspired by the #MeToo movement and the goings on with Harvey Weinstein, and the lasting changes it brought about, it makes for an interesting and intriguing view - for both men and women alike. I particularly liked how the identity of the body found in reception is not revealed (keeping you hooked, and guessing) which then switches to flashbacks (with some rather dodgy looking wigs) and the events leading up to the current day.

Whilst there's some mixed reviews out there, probably split 50/50, I can see the potential for it being seen as anti-male, stereotypical and sexist. Never the less, it does touch on an important subject and it deals with some outdated workspace practices which I hope we've seen the back of.

Without revealing what happens, the premise is a very good one and you should definitely consider investing the time to watch. It has a 15 rating, has some choice language with sexual references along with some sexual scenes too. Just make sure junior is tucked up in bed before taking the disc for a spin.

  • Behind the scenes featurettes
  • Picture gallery
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