Series 7 : Contender

With the un-relentless string of reality based TV shows, it comes as no surprise that film makers have jumped onto the bandwagon. It seems that everywhere you turn to there is another one of these unholy alliances between 'real' people and the cameras in front of them - COPS, SURVIVOR, THE REAL WORLD, TEMPTATION ISLAND, DRIVING SCHOOL, COME FLY WITH ME, THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR. Former TV tabloid producer Daniel Minahan gives us Series 7:Contender a satirical look at the current trend and shows how far people are willing to go for fame.

Series 7:Contender focuses on six average, everyday people who are chosen by a lottery, given a gun each and then the rules are simple - last one standing is the winner. The current champion is Dawn (Brook Smith, last seen as the Senators daughter in the well in The Silence Of The Lambs) who is a bitter champion with a bucket load of axes to grind against the world. She is also heavily pregnant and  willing to do anything to survive through her third series and therefore 'winning' her freedom from the show. The other contestants are very ordinary folk and consist of Connie (Marylouise Burke), a devious and cunning Bible bashing ER nurse; Franklin (Richard Venture), a half crazed conspiracy nut; Tony (Micheal Kaycheck) an out of work blue collar worker and desperate father  who dabbles in coke; Lindsay (Merritt Weaver) a bright attractive 17 year old virgin with pushy parents; and finally Jeff (Glenn Fitzgerald) a victim of testicular cancer - who just hasn't got the balls for the contest (couldn't resist that gag!)

Thus these are the contestants of the seventh series of Contender the battle begins. The film continues through dimly lit houses, running through a Mall and thus every location becomes a battle ground. As the battle continues, it transpires that Dawn and Jeff have a history - which throws up doubts on the lottery used to pick the contestants, was he selected by the shows producers (unfortunately the film misses this potential theory). Are these two capable of killing the only person that they have ever loved?

Series 7:Contender is a flawed film as it cannot address why people want to be the subject of these types of show and why so many of us are compelled to watch them. The whole film has a smug and shallow flair to it, as it never really hits the mark with its sense of judgemental parody. Minahan is focused too much on trying to fill the film with gimmickry irony that he missed the fact that the show shoves the values of tastelessness and absurdities that are evident in the shows that he mocks. At one point Franklin hollers that he know something about the show and that the whole thing is fake, before getting killed. Again the film misses the opportunity to explore that avenue. Other missed points are why do the contestants not just kill the camera men and escape and why do their families not sue the show? or do people boycott the show or protest against it? everyone in the back ground totally ignores the contestants. The first half focuses on the contest more and is more entertaining than the second, which just gets bogged down with the relationship between Dawn and Jeff.

On the whole Series 7:Contender has its occasional good points but throws up more questions than it answers. Even from purely an entertainment value it doesn't compare to other film in the same genre such as Battle Royale and Man Bites Dog. The biggest problem with any parody of 'reality' TV shows is that those shows are already a joke.  

SCORE 4/10