Director David Fincher followed the success of his dark and atmospheric crime thriller Seven (1995) with another exercise in stylish film noir, this time lifting the pallid atmosphere a notch to indulge in a fast-paced trip through the cinematic funhouse.
Michael Douglas plays Nicholas Van Orton, a Scrooge-like San Francisco investment banker following in his father's Scrooge-like footsteps.
On Nicholas's 48th birthday (the age at which his father committed suicide), his younger, free-spirited brother Conrad (Sean Penn) blows into town and gives Nicholas a special gift for the man who has everything -- a ticket to CRS (Consumer Recreation Services), a company that constructs games custom-fit for each participant to provide, as CRS salesman Jim Feingold (James Rebhorn) cryptically puts it, whatever is lacking.
Nicholas's secure life begins a downhill slide as CRS masterminds a series of elaborate pranks, harmless at first, that quickly become malicious and life-threatening. Stripped of financial resources and convinced that he can trust no one, Nicholas begins to wonder if CRS is a front for a more covert operation, and if the game is in fact an attempt to steal his fortune and leave him for dead.
Determined to fight back alone, Nicholas infiltrates CRS in order to pull back the curtain and meet the wizard.