Urban Cinefile
"I'm the guy in the movie - the aggressive sexual predator who doesn't want a commitment "  -Helen Hunt talking about her role in Dr T and The Women
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Monday June 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



In The Contenders, a TV reality show of the future, contestants win by killing fellow competitors. Current champion Dawn (Brooke Smith) is now eight months pregnant and determined to survive long enough for her child to be born. In Series 7 of The Contenders, Dawn must face nurse Connie (Marylouise Burke), father of three Tony (Michael Kaycheck), trailer resident Franklin (Richard Venture), a teenager (Merritt Weaver) and testicular cancer victim (Glenn Fitzgerald).

"The scariest thing about this clever satire on our fixation with reality TV shows is that you half-expect The Contenders to one day become a real programme. With roots traceable to Richard Connnell's novel The Most Dangerous Game and films including A Game Of Death (1945), The Tenth Victim (1965), Death Race 2000 (1975) and The Running Man (1987), Series 7 arrives at a time when the gap between the fantasy it presents and thoughts of it becoming a reality seem dangerously slender. Writer/director Danile Minahan's what-if creative leap takes its cue from TV shows such as Survivor and The Jerry Springer Show and from the knowledge that on any given day most people living in western industrial cities will be captured on some form of surveillance camera at least half a dozen times. We're now so used to cameras, so desensitised to violence and so willing to watch people debasing themselves in the pursuit of fame, no matter how brief it may be, that The Contenders is the next logical step - isn't it? Series 7 supplies a swift kick in the guts of the complacent voyeurism and cheap thrill-seeking that forms a substantial part of modern TV viewer habits. It throws the appalling premise of The Contenders in our faces and forces us to question what we might think if such an entertainment existed. Even more disturbing than the many live homicides carried out in front of casual bystanders are the confessions of the participants. Their collective willingness to reveal the most dreadful secrets about themselves is no longer from the realms of fantasy - a decade ago perhaps, but not now. These outpourings form a savage commentary on what audiences desire from television and what is so eagerly given to them by many profoundly sad people for whom there simply is no shame. Very cleverly put together and well acted by an impressive ensemble cast, Series 7 also has some very funny moments (the Love Will Tear Us Apart video made by Jeff and Dawn when high school lovers is priceless) and even if it runs out of puff after about an hour there is plenty to think about on your way home to watch Survivor."
Richard Kuipers

“Series 7 could just be the scariest movie of all time; certainly of our time. Daniel Minahan’s look at the ultimate in ‘reality’ TV is at times a hilarious parody, and at others a searing critique on a society in which such a show is not only possible, but unlikely to be very shocking. After all, Minahan is “holding up a mirror” (as one of the characters says) on America - and what we see is frightening. While the film’s premise may seem extreme, remember this is a country in which broadcasters have recently gone to court arguing they should be allowed to show the execution of Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh. Indeed, the film touches on issues associated with capital punishment, euthanasia as well as the more obvious fascination with the fake reality of tabloid TV. While Minahan, who wrote the screenplay, could have gone for simple parody, he’s created complex and “real” characters. No one is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The lead character,r Dawn, is 8 months pregnant and truly cares for her unborn child - yet she’s a ruthless a competitor who has (presumably) killed several times before. There are blackly funny moments in the film, but also achingly touching ones. Brooke Smith is spectacular as Dawn, a woman who’s clearly not had the easiest life but who is desperately seeking to make something of it for herself and her baby. Glen Fitzgerald also shows his range as Jeff, the contestant with seemingly the least to lose but the most baggage. Sure, there are some notes which don’t ring true and some of the characters (particularly Franklin) are under-written; but I for one am prepared to forgive it these for its glaring acuity and wicked sense of humour. Complex, disturbing and hideously believable, Series 7 is a film not to be missed.”
David Edwards

Email this article

Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0


CAST: Brooke Smith, Marylouise Burke, Glenn Fitzgerald, Michael Kaycheck

DIRECTOR: Daniel Minahan

PRODUCER: Jason Kliot, Katie Roumel, Christine Vachon, Joana Vicente

SCRIPT: Daniel Minahan


EDITOR: Malcolm Jamieson


MUSIC: Alexis Flesig, Eli Janney, Scott McCloud, Johnny Temple (as Girls Against Boys)

RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes




VIDEO RELEASE: November 21, 2001

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020