It should have been so simple.

When the Longstreets (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly) invite the Cowans (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz) over to discuss the fact that the Cowans' son hit the Longstreets' son in the face with a stick during a playground argument, the meeting should have been short and polite.

Instead, the get-together turns into a social nightmare of tears, drunkness, rage and gastrointestinal distress.

"Carnage," based on Jewish playwright Yasmina Reza's Tony Award-winning play, "God of Carnage," is directed by Roman Polanski. The script is co-written by Polanski and Reza.

The comic potential of the story, which was brilliantly illustrated in last year's production of "God of Carnage" at Arizona Theatre Company, is only demonstrated weakly in the film.

Polanski seems to want to highlight the social tension and claustrophobic nature of the narrative, which takes place in real time in a Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment, rather than the comedy. The result is 80 minutes of four people sniping at each other, with minimal laughs from the audience.

The performances from all four actors are strong, and the film does include a funny final scene that the play does not.

It's not that "Carnage" is a bad film, it's that it could have been so much more.

"Carnage" is playing exclusively at Harkins Camelview 5 Theatres, 7001 E. Highland Ave., Scottsdale. Call 602-222-4275 or visit harkinstheatres.com.

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