The third remake of an Aussie-sploitation "classic" following The Long Weekend and Patrick, which doesn't look like being any more successful than those films, though I could be wrong. This was a frustrating movie which actually seemed closer to the 1987 Arnie film The Running Man rather than the Aussie original and is irritatingly dumb in some parts, but isn't all bad.
First of all the good stuff. Jon Hewitt knows how to use the video camera well and there were some exciting scenes where we'd cut to CCTV footage and then back - I think this was done to help cover the low budget (especially a car chase) but it was effective. I really liked the music and some of the action sequences were very well done.
But it's a poor story. And a boring one. Satire of game shows where people watch other people being killed was done a lot in the late 80s - not just Running Man but also Robocop - but here its presented like it's something new and fresh and funny. Smiling cheesy comperes talking about people being killed - hahahaha! Satire! The network executive (Belinda McClory) is ruthless about ratings - wow! satire! (Will network TV even exist a few years in the future? That doesn't seem considered here. We see the complete credits for the Turkey Shoot TV show not just once, but three times.
I never got a true sense of the world - it's a few years in the future, okay, set mostly in the US (it's annoying that there's Australian tax payer dollars in this with all the characters acting in American in a story which could have easily been set in Australia but never mind...), where the US has been at war in Africa which is going on and on with no end in sight, and Dominic Purcell is in prison for supposedly having committed a massacre in Africa, which the audience boo at, but America has been transformed into this society where there's a show where people cheer at criminals being hunted down and killed? I didn't buy it - at least not the way set up here.
Dominic Purcell lumbers through the lead - he's got the looks and the physicality, but lacks charisma, sensitivity and humour. He never seems too stressed or torn or worried by what's going on- and the script makes him far too much of a superman. It's like there is no threat on Earth enough for him - they constantly introduce all these antagonists and have Purcell dispatch them in about five to ten seconds. The one that made me really mad was when he took out an entire squad of trained killers with automatic weapons by using nothing but a few hand guns and quick reflexes. At this point I felt the filmmakers could be bothered bringing in any tension or legitimate excitement, they were phoning it in. So by the end of the film when they have Purcell take on "the world" - which is admittedly a clever concept and could have sustained the movie if introduced earlier and actually explored - I didn't get into it because I knew they wouldn't do much with it, and they don't.
Viva Bianca at least has warmth, even if she's not terribly convincing as a Navy officer - the filmmakers made the mistake of introducing her via a long take of her walking down the corridor in uniform, and she sashays so much I thought they were setting things up with the gag that she was a stripper. She doesn't have much of a character to play either but at least she participates in the action. (No nudity though despite her track record on Spartacus - like a bewilderingly large proportion of modern day movies which are nods to 70s/80s exploitation, this is relatively sexless and tame in the nudity department.)
Robert Taylor should have made a good villain - he's got the voice, the talent, the presence. But the filmmakers cut off his balls by making him the most incompetent sniper in recent cinematic memory - Purcell sneaks up on him easily not once, but twice; he shoots at Purcell several times but never shoots him; Purcell knocks him out.
The consistent plot holes in this movie were infuriating. The powers that be want to take out Purcell because he knows The Truth but have been unable to kill him over three years even though he's been in prison? (I get that he can survive the occasional shanking in the showers but three years?) General Nicholas Hammond wants to make amends for what he's done with his life (a good character motivation, and his death scene is the best bit in the film).... so instead of just confessing himself, he arranges for Purcell to go on this show, and then Bianca to help him escape, and engineer it so that Purcell visits him? How about just screen something yourself? And Purcell is given the "secret information which could bring down the government" - he doesn't give it to a journalist or upload it himself, he gives it to a random woman (Leah Vanderberg) he meets at a protest? Seriously, she could have been anyone.
I think the big problem with this film is it was made by people who were technically skillful, had some vague idea of what was commercial from what they'd read about, who ripped off a bunch of far too old ideas from the 80s, threw in some lazy "hey the war in Afghanistan is a con" type satire and blamed no one turning up at the cinemas on the fact that there's no market for this sort of movie any more.