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Series 7: The Contenders (2001)

A TV program selects people at random to kill one another for fame and their freedom.

Director:

Daniel Minahan

Writer:

Daniel Minahan
3 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Brooke Smith ... Dawn
Mark Woodbury Mark Woodbury ... Dairy Mart Clerk
Michael Kaycheck ... Tony
Marylouise Burke ... Connie
Richard Venture Richard Venture ... Franklin
Donna Hanover ... Sheila
Merritt Wever ... Lindsay
Glenn Fitzgerald ... Jeff
Angelina Phillips Angelina Phillips ... Doria
Tom Gilroy ... Dawn's Cameraman
Nada Despotovich Nada Despotovich ... Michelle
Stephen Michael Rinaldi Stephen Michael Rinaldi ... Craig
Alex Yershov Alex Yershov ... Nathan
Danton Stone ... Bob
Joe Barrett Joe Barrett ... Doctor
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Storyline

Ever seen the show "Survivor" and wished they would just start killing each other?? Series 7 literally gives its contestants the guns. The film is not merely a satire on reality TV. It is an example of just how far people will shamelessly go for fame. 6 contenders are pitted against each other in a no holds barred, kill or be killed contest. The reigning champ is Dawn, a hard-nosed, mother-to-be. We go back and forth between Dawn and the other 5 contenders to see if someone can dethrone Dawn and become the new Champion. What is the prize? How are the contestants picked? These questions are not as important as asking yourself how shameless has our society become? Written by Jeff Mellinger <jmell@uclink4.berkeley.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

You Can Not Run. You Can Not Hide. You Can Not Refuse To Play. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violent content and language | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

Sensational Productions

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

25 May 2001 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Series 7 See more »

Filming Locations:

Danbury, Connecticut, USA See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$28,844, 4 March 2001

Gross USA:

$195,065

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$300,086
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

While it premiered months after the TV series Survivor (2000) and Big Brother (2000), the project predates both shows. The concept for the movie was originally pitched as a TV series in 1998. See more »

Goofs

The truck Tony drives off with the baby in is a Ford Ranger (a mid-size truck). The stock footage of a chase from a helicopter shows a truck that is supposed to be Tony's, but is now a full-sized Chevy. Back in the close-ups, it's a Ford Ranger again. See more »

Quotes

[last lines]
Jeff: Shit!
See more »

Crazy Credits

After the title credits, a warning appears "Due to the graphic nature of this program, viewer discretion is advised." See more »

Alternate Versions

The DVD version includes deleted scenes that are viewed seperately. They include:
  • The reunion with Dawn's family is extended.
  • A scene of Franklin refusing the radio/GPS rig and explaining why he lives in a lead-lined shack.
  • A scene where Franklin is looking in the mirror and mentally preparing himself before he receives the note.
  • Franklin's speech in the mall is extended.
  • A scene with Connie's priest, where he explains in an interview that he's a fan of the show, that he recognized Connie's voice in the confessional, and that he hopes that she confesses for the two murders before she herself dies.
  • 'Man-on-the-street' interviews.
  • The 'real' ending, which we are told in the film that the footage was destroyed and then are presented a dramatization of the events. The 'real' ending is, when presented with the choice of killing one another, Jeff and Dawn put the guns down, run out of the theatre, were they meet a crowd of disgruntled fans. The fans give chase after them and, after catching them entering their SUV, begin beating them, presumably to death. This explains why, at the end of the film, Doria is proclaiming that she's been framed and why Jeff survived.
  • An interview with Laura with Dawn's baby, where she renames the baby Dawn and says she's proud of her sister.
  • A PSA from Doria about checking for testicular cancer.
See more »

Connections

References Police Videos (1998) See more »

Soundtracks

Let Me Come Back
Written and Performed by Girls Against Boys
Published by Action Collar Music/BMI
Courtesy of Touch and Go Records
See more »

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User Reviews

Very convincing veneer of reality shows but too "straight" to really make the point as well as it should have done
28 November 2007 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

Season 7 of the popular reality television show "The Contenders" returns with reigning champion Dawn Lagarto still dominant despite being heavily pregnant. This season sees five new contestants randomly selected by lottery for the game show. The rules are simple – each contestant is given a gun and a rifle as well as a choice of other weapons and protective gear. From this point they are separated from their families and joined by a camera crew who will shadow them throughout their time in the show. The winner? Well, whoever is left standing when the others are all dead wins their freedom and life.

I remember hearing about this show years ago when it came out but I had never seen it being shown anywhere until it popped up on late night television the other week. It is depressing but the film is actually more relevant now than it was then simply because reality shows have continued down the road that they were on when this was made. Of course it has not gone as far as murder-television but with celebs eating bugs, Big Brother causing protests in India and many other extremes it is hard not to appreciate the point the film is making here.

The strength of the film is that it accurately recreates the staples of the genre in the repetitive nature of clips, heavy voice-over use, trailers for coming next, interviews with the contestants and so on. Looking at the genre cynically you could say that the show also gets other things right – specifically the manipulation of footage, the way emotional interest in the contestants is falsely generated and of course the way that conflict and fighting is produced to keep the viewer interested. This aspect of it works well and it really does capture the look and feel of the genre, setting it up well to deliver a scathing attack on the genre from the inside.

Unfortunately it is here where it falls down somewhat because it is not as sharp or as clever as it would like to think. OK it does the genre as well as any reality show, but the ability to turn this on itself is lacking. Of course the idea appalled me as a viewer and that was the point – that the viewer would question the genre on the basis of this film, but I do not think it asks enough of the audience to make this happen. In fact, once you get over the concept, it can almost be watched as a reality show of sorts and I imagine fans of the genre could easily miss the point of the film – mainly because it doesn't make one that well. It will sound like a strange criticism but I do think that by hitting the genre spot on throughout the film, the result is that it is almost too "straight" to act as an attack at the same time. Instead it is just an exaggeration and it leaves the viewer to do the work.

The cast are OK, no really good performances but they certainly deliver the turns that convince within what I expect from the genre (and I write this as a guilty but unrepentant viewer of America's Next Top Model and a couple of other trashy shows). Smith, Burke, Venture, Wever and Fitzgerald all do well enough without ever threatening to be real characters. The only member of the cast that really stuck in my mind though was Arnett, who turns up in a small role – but he was memorable to me for being Gob in Arrested Development, not for what he did here! Overall then, this is a very convincing extreme version of reality television that remains topical due to the genre becoming more and more extreme and cruel, not the film itself hitting points well. However beyond this design and structure there is not a sharp criticism or message to be had and as a result there is not much of a message other than the obvious one about the path that reality TV is on and why cruelty or suffering of others should be acceptable as entertainment. Topical – but not as sharp or clever as one would have hoped it could have been.


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