Scott Hardie | May 15, 2002
If you haven't heard of this film, it's "three episodes" of a reality TV show in which contestants are given guns and ordered to kill one another. There's no cash prize, only the ability to continue living if you win. The movie follows the six contestants with reality-show on-camera interviews as they tick one another off until the final two-person showdown. I have a mixed reaction to the film. [very big spoilers below]

After some consideration, I think this film is a perfect medium (2 stars). It has so many good points and bad points, often both at the same time.

The premise, for instance. This is hardly new; the thrill of people involuntarily killing one another for entertainment has been around at least since ancient Rome. But we consider ourselves a civilized society, and we would never permit something like this! This is murder! It's a gigantic conceit that the film asks us to swallow, and I for one was still wrestling with it by the time the closing credits rolled. Interesting premise, they get about as much mileage out of it as they can, but it's really hard to believe. IF participation in the show was voluntary, and IF there was a huge cash prize, then we could buy it, because the people chose to be involved and are probably psychos. Then we can view it with the detachment necessary for a satire. Instead, we're too busy sympathizing with these people for being put into this situation, and it just doesn't work. If the movie had somehow given us a view of either the government that would subject its citizens to this kind of torture, or the viewing public that would make such a show palatable, that might have also helped us swallow the conceit.

The same goes for satiric effect. The fact that the show is involuntary and popular would be a comment on the government and/or the viewing public. But they're never even mentioned. Instead, it sets itself up as a satire of reality shows (the current crop of which hadn't even been conceived when it was made), when the real American public would never stand for a show this degenerate. So, it has very little satiric punch.

That said, it's sporadically very funny. I laughed out loud at several parts, especially the mom and dad who cheered on their murderous daughter on the golf course. The last word of the movie is fantastic. The movie also nails some conventions of the reality show genre right on the head, which is remarkable given that it predates Survivor and Big Brother, which brought the genre to the top of the ratings. It is also occasionally, genuinely sickening and heartbreaking, such as when a man is making arrangements for his own mercy killing and yells at his sobbing wife because she won't leave the room.

The movie is both cleverly and foolishly made. It's clever in that there's more going on than what we see - was Franklin really chosen at random to be on the show? think about what he starts to say at his death - but it makes so many missteps that we can't be completely sure. The biggest flaw in the movie (beyond the concept) is that it doesn't develop some of the characters. We see two characters get a lot of development throughout the movie and others get barely any - gee, which two do you think will make it to the end? Even the cheesiest reality shows at least give equal time to every participant to keep you guessing. And the concept of the show is so quickly explained at the beginning, plus rules seem to be added along the way (like when Dawn is separated from her baby because of a rule we never heard before), that it gets frustrating. It's also really badly acted in parts, especially by the lead, Brooke Smith. To her credit, I don't think the screenplay gives her a coherent character to play, so it can't be entirely her fault.

I guess I'm in the middle of the road on this movie because I don't know what to think of it. It wants to be a satire, but it's shooting at the wrong target - and on top of that, it's shooting very well at that target, so I don't think it knows what it's doing. It succeeds in being funny and sickening, but isn't funny or sickening enough to really move us or even engage us. It's good, but it's got a lot of wasted potential, and more time spent writing and filming would have made a better finished product.

Matthew Preston | May 16, 2002
Sorry, I gave the negative feedback because I missed that you had said, [very big spoilers below]. I thought you gave away too much of the film without warning. Now I see I was wrong.

Scott Hardie | May 16, 2002
Have you seen the film? I hope I didn't ruin it for you.


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