12th Oct2015

‘Elimination Game’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Dominic Purcell, Viva Bianca, Robert Taylor, Belinda McClory, Nicholas Hammond, Carmen Duncan, Roger Ward, Suzannah McDonald, Juan Jackson, Stephen Phillips, Glenn Maynard | Written by Jon Hewitt, Belinda McClory | Directed by Jon Hewitt

elimination-game-dvd

After a civilian massacre in a foreign war zone, Navy SEAL Rick Tyler (Dominic Purcell), is falsely imprisoned for the crime. But Rick is offered the chance of freedom – all he has to do is enter and survive a deadly game show, which pits him against some of the world’s most ruthless killers in a series of brutal locations. The rules are simple: kill or be killed. Can Rick survive the game, win his freedom and find out why he was framed for a crime he didn’t commit?

See that title at the top of this review. Forget it. This is NOT Elimination Game. It’s not some straight to DVD knock off of The Running Man, which the PR and sales bumpf would have you believe. This is a modern-day update, reality TV tropes and all, of the classic Ozploitation movie Turkey Shoot.

In a world of remakes, reduxes and reboots, all of which cash in on the idea of familiar nomenclature, it seems odd that a remake of a film steeped in a rich history, not only because of its Ozploitation roots but also because of the infamy the original film had here in the UK where Turkey Shoot was also called Blood Camp Thatcher – no doubt in a nod to our then Prime Minister. So why the retitle? It’s hard to fathom. Surely any distributor, who knows that its hard to get generic action films infront of an audience, would play up the remake aspect? Genre fans know Turkey Shoot. Genre fans are unlikely to want to get to know a film called Elimination Game.

Then again maybe its because this remake has little in common with its predecessor beyond the concept of hunting humans. Instead Elimination Game is a very dark and very bleak look at the horrors of war, the proliferation of ratings-hungry reality television, and the blurring of the lines between truth and reality, especially in how it pertains to perceived justice in todays media-savvy, always connected, always watching, world. It’s also a very black comedy, poking fun at the tropes of reality TV and how even so-called killers (in this case, falsely accussed) can become media superstars.

Original director Brian Trenchard-Smith takes a backseat, and executive producer title, on this one, leaving directorial duties to Jon Hewitt – whose most may be familiar with from films such as 2008′s Acolytes, which starred Joel Edgerton, and the sexploitation thriller X: Night of Vengeance, on which he first teamed with actress Viva Bianca (from TV’s Spartacus), who plays Officer Jill Wilson, one of only a handful of people who know Tyler is really innocent in this film. This version of Turkey Shoot is also written by Hewitt, who once again pens with long time collaborator, actress/writer Belinda McClory (The Matrix, X: Night of Vengeance) – who also appears in the film as Meredith Baxter, cutthroat producer of the in-film “Turkey Shoot” reality TV show.

Whilst, for the most part, the film ignores that which has come before it – instead telling its own story from a much more modern perspective – there are some nice nods to the original movie strewn throughout Elimination Game. The original film plays on TV (under the OTHER alternative title of Escape 2000) as Rick Tyler patches himself up in a motel after escaping the televised Turkey Shoot reality series. And the storage facility, in which evidence of Tyler’s innocence is kept, is named after Steve Railsback, star and hero of the Trenchard-Smith directed original. And… The President is played by non other than Tueky Shoot’s Jennifer, aka actress Carmen Duncan.

Plus, like the 1981 film, this particular slice of Ozploitation has a great hero in Dominic Purcell – who does a bang up job of holding his own throughout the film, even when it looks like there’s no budget for him to do anything than run round and round a forest and/or dockyard looking worried for his own safety. Kudos too to Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla‘s Glenn Maynard, who gets the best lines in the film as the head of the Navy SEAL crew sent to track down Purcell’s Rick Tyler in level 2 of the TV show!

OK, so maybe Elimination Game isn’t going to set the world on fire – it’s certainly not as brutal and gory, or censor-baiting, as Turkey Shoot – but it does have some truly interesting things to say about TV as we know it and the cult of celebrity. In fact, hold on, it may be closer to The Running Man than I first thought…

Elimination Game is out now on DVD from Altitude Film Entertainment.

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