[Deep Focus]

The first feature since The Blair Witch Project to be shot on video for a good reason, Series 7: The Contenders is a frantic, unpretentious send-up of reality TV programs that earns 86 minutes of your time by managing to be laugh-out-loud funny at a rate of about one guffaw per reel. Good humor is everything where this stuff is concerned, and Series 7 emulates a TV program pitched way beyond the relatively staid Survivor. It's similar in tone to such Fox network fare as Cops and World's Wildest Police Videos, and involves a group of six people who are selected at random from the U.S. populace, equipped with weapons, and sent on a suburban version of The Most Dangerous Game where the prey is encouraged to shoot back. In a typical scenario, a contestant guns down another player in a convenience store, then asks, "Got any bean dip?"

Dawn (Brooke Smith), a single mother-to-be with 10 kills under her belt (in Series 5 and 6) is the favorite to retain the championship title, with adversaries including daddy's-girl Lindsay, ER nurse Connie, and former flame Jeffrey. Budgetary limitations probably impeded this one from being as much fun as it could have been -- the actual showdowns among the contestants are necessarily limited in scope -- and the cynicism becomes obnoxious after a while, even though the parody voiceover is hilariously accurate. Finally, with the extended screen time afforded to the relationship between Dawn and Jeffrey, it comes dangerously close to taking itself seriously. Let's hope Oliver Stone doesn't buy remake rights.

Written and directed by Daniel Minahan
Cinematography by Randy Drummond
Edited by Malcolm Jamieson
USA, 2001

Theatrical aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Screened at Loews Cineplex Janus, Washington, DC

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DEEP FOCUS: Movie Reviews by Bryant Frazer