Two middle-class couples meet on polite terms to patch up a playground scuffle between their respective sons and end up verbally tearing lumps out of one another in Carnage, Roman Polanski’s wickedly satirical screen adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s hit stage play God of Carnage.

Bourgeois good manners prove a very thin veneer when New York husband and wife Nancy and Alan (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz) go to the home of aggrieved parents Penelope and Michael (Jodie Foster and John C Reilly) to settle the issue. At first, everyone is cordial and well behaved. But tensions soon emerge between and within the couples.

Cynical lawyer Alan reveals his disdain by plotting the defence of a scandal-hit drugs company on his mobile phone. Plumbing-supplies salesman Michael becomes increasingly chippy and boorish. And uptight Kate vomits over a priceless art catalogue, at which point the ostentatiously socially concerned Penelope reveals her true scale of values.

It’s ghastly but utterly riveting, as Reza mercilessly dissects social hypocrisy, skewering her characters with a rapier wit – and she finds a ruthless accomplice in Polanski, who directs his heavy-hitting cast with consummate skill. Save for a brief, distant glimpse of the kids’ initial quarrel, he makes no effort to open out the play, confining us to the hosts’ Brooklyn apartment as the encounter unfolds in real time. And being trapped there with them only makes us squirm the more.

Released on Blu-ray & DVD on Monday 18th June by Studio Canal.

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