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Series 7: The Contenders (R)
Blow Up Pictures
Official Site
Director: Daniel Minahan
Producer: Jason Kliot, Evan T. Cohen, Katie Roumel
Written by: Daniel Minahan
Cast: Brooke Smith, Glenn Fitzgerald

Rating: out of 5

The truth is seldom funny. Series 7 is one of the least funny parody/satires I have ever seen. Itís also one of the best. The premise is relatively simple. Six people have been randomly selected to compete in the seventh season of the reality TV show, ďThe Contenders.Ē The catch is, in this reality show, they must kill each other and the last person left wins. Brooke Smith plays 8-months-pregnant Dawn Lagarto, the reigning champ of the show. She has already survived two seasons and it is suggested that if she survives a third, she will be free. The film is told as the show would be. There are breaks where commercials would fit in, dramatizations, flashy titles, and MTV edits (I hate that statement). In fact, there is such incredible attention to detail that if it werenít for the acting and the FX, I would swear itís real.

The plot is melodramatic, yet in the same vein as real reality TV. Two of the contestants have a past. Dawn is desperate to protect her child. One of the girls is a virgin teen with overprotective parents. There is a Catholic nurse with moral issues about the contest. For the most part, itís easy to predict the outcome of these plot lines, and there is nothing special about the acting to distinguish them. No, the strength of the film lies in its dark biting satire. The show is unrealistic in its premise, but this only makes it all the more poignant and profound.

In our modern society, the role models and bad-asses are all killers. Itís horrid to think that Dawn has become a heroine by murdering other people, but itís not that far from the truth. In reality shows, competition, deceit, and ruthlessness are all admired and rewarded. We love to watch people get hurt and kicked off the island, or insulted and humiliated (cough*Real World*cough). Why is it so ridiculous to see us celebrating a murderer?

And it doesnít stop there. This movie bashes modern morality and bravado as the flimsy rubbish that is. In church confession, one character doesnít repent for murdering but does repent for having impure thoughts about a TV personality. Itís as if the character is ashamed to admit having committed a real sin. The charactersí reservations about killing last up to the point where they might die, then shatter like fine crystal against a brick wall. Death? Theyíre not afraid of death. Except when theyíre about to die. Itís brutally honest. Not to mention the portrayal of the showís production. Something is amiss. Little clues sprinkled throughout the movie suggest that the show is not being totally straightforward with you (see quote below). These clues donít spoil the ending, but rather make it more comfortable and less shocking. I could go on and on. The movie bites into everything it can get its teeth on.

Therein lies the problem. There is very little release. The parody is so accurate and the illusion so real that the audience is given very little time to laugh. It becomes uncomfortable, as you never know whether it is OK to laugh. Some things are obviously funny, but many of these things are over-shadowed by the darkness of the situation. Itís very uneasy moviegoing, but all in all, very good. Perhaps not the best piece of filmmaking, but itís still one of the most intelligent pieces of the year (not saying a lot, but itís a compliment, nonetheless).

óZack ďself-inflicted knife wound to the backĒ Schenkkan


hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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