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IN SHORT: "reality" comes to the big screen. A blast. [Rated R for strong violent content and language. 85 minutes]
Before we begin we should admit that, though we don't have time to watch a lot of television, we love Cops. That's only important in that the producers of Series 7: The Contenders cut their chops on making reality teevee. For the big screen, they push the concept a bit farther; creating a Cops-like game scenario, where randomly chosen citizens are given a Glock 17 handgun and instructions to hunt down the other contestants. Last one alive wins.
Hee hee hee. Forget the fact that the idea is morally repugnant (and forget, for that matter, the fact that this kind of hunt has been a staple of literature and movies for years). Forget the fact that no police officer worth his salt would let this kind of thing happen. Writer/Director Daniel Minahan has put together a movie which delivers what a movie is supposed to. Characters you can "buy" in to. Situations which will have you reacting, one way or another. While we'd never pay cash for a big-screen edition of Cops, Series 7 works surprisingly well.
Dawn Lagarto (Brooke Smith) is eight months pregnant, a two time "winner" with ten kills under her belt. If Dawn makes it through this Series, she is off the hook and free to live out the rest of her natural life. She's estranged from her parents, due to a high school abortion, and when the game plants here back in her hometown of of Newbury Connecticut, she attempts to reconcile with her family after fifteen years on the road. When we first saw this sequence, honestly, we thought Minahan was laying it on a bit thick. As the film progresses, broken into three segments as if a number of teevee programs were spliced together, these bits of background weave an ever involving spell.
Dawn faces a new set of lucky lottery winners: Franklin (Richard Venture) is an elderly conspiracy theorist. Tony (Michael Kaycheck) is an asbestos removal specialist who is more than willing to put his family at risk to ensure his survival in the game. Barely legal Lindsay (Merritt Wever) has an overly enthusiastic and supportive set of parents who drive her from kill site to kill site and make sure she's got extra ammo and a properly fastened bulletproof vest.
Jeff (Glenn Fitzgerald) is a pacifist artist who has been diagnosed with Stage 3 testicular cancer. Death is not something he necessarily wishes to avoid, and Dawn was his high school sweetheart. Doria (Angelina Phillips) is Jeff's wife and she's not thrilled with any of this. Finally, there's Connie (Marylouise Burke), an emergency room nurse whose skills and knowledge comes in handy as the film includes an edge of your seat hunt through the hospital corridors.
Yep, you read it right. Edge of your seat. Yes, we knew that Dawn's pregnancy would inevitably play a part in this story and, even guessing far in advance how, our eyes were glues to the screen. By the time you hit the third act, episode three by this format, we found ourselves rooting for one of the characters and truly creeped out by the actions of another.
Films may last forever. Good movies should make you feel like you've spent your money well and Series 7 delivers surprise after surprise.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Series 7: The Contenders, he would have paid . . .
Take a date. Be surprised.
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