This pitch-perfect parody of reality TV shows takes its story cues (but emphatically not its look) from psychedelic cult favorite THE 10TH VICTIM. Somewhere in the very near future, a show called "The Contenders" is entering its seventh series. "Real people, in real danger, fight for their lives," promises the promos, and that's about the size of it. Six contenders are picked from a nationwide lottery, armed and set loose to kill each other. Reigning champion Dawn (Brooke Smith) is eight months pregnant and has survived two seasons and outlived ten opponents. But the new round includes some novel twists: It's taking place in Dawn's Connecticut hometown, which she fled in disgrace 15 years earlier, and one of the contenders is Jeff (Glenn Fitzgerald), Dawn's boyfriend back when they were both high school outcasts. The other would-be killers are Tony (Michael Kaycheck), an unemployed, blue-collar family man; too-perfect teen Lindsay (Merritt Weaver), whose perfectionist parents are determined to coach her to a win; paranoid Franklin (Richard Venture); and middle-aged nurse Connie (Marylouise Burke), whose staunch Catholicism in no way deters her from playing for keeps. Writer/director Daniel Minahan, who developed his script at the Sundance writing workshop, puts his own background in tabloid TV documentary to excellent use. The movie's mimicry of reality TV clichés is eerie, from the use of re-creations and supplemental footage (especially the experimental video Dawn and Jeff made together for a high school art project) to the smarmy commentary. In fact, Minahan's greatest casting coup may be Will Arnett, the voice of "The Contenders": Arnett's unseen embodiment of the show's false sincerity is nothing short of chilling. The film's 87-minute running time is divided into bite-sized, TV-friendly segments — shown on television with commercial breaks, it could be mistaken for the real thing. Which is, of course, precisely the point.
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- Released: 2001
- Rating: R
- Review: This pitch-perfect parody of reality TV shows takes its story cues (but emphatically not its look) from psychedelic cult favorite THE 10TH VICTIM. Somewhere in the very near future, a show called "The Contenders" is entering its seventh series. "Real peopl… (more)