(Please don’t) stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before. A former government operative locked away for a massacre he didn’t commit is taken out of prison and thrown into a reality TV show, in which he must battle a series of themed killers in order to win his freedom. Yes, that’s the plot of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cheesy 1987 actioner The Running Man. It’s also the plot of The Elimination Game (titled Turkey Shoot elsewhere, presumably changed here in the hope that someone will think it’s a sequel to The Imitation Game – I’d love to see their reaction).
But there’s nothing inherently wrong in re-using stories, right? We’ve been recycling and adapting narratives since ancient civilisations first borrowed bits of each other’s myths. The thing is, The Running Man had things to recommend about it – not least that it was ahead of its time. In a world where The Hunger Games has the dystopian reality telly thing covered (and has it covered rather well), this whole concept, particularly when nothing new is added to it, feels sadly old-hat.
Nor does The Elimination Game do a good job with this story. In Dominic Purcell, it’s found a star somehow less emotive than Arnie (he narrows his eyes at one point – that’s the extent of his acting) and without the cult appeal. The action sequences are unengaging, largely because Purcell’s Rick Tyler seems to put in little to no effort. The odds should be stacked against him, but he never takes a scratch and always seems to have the racial stereotype of the day lying dead before you realise the fight’s begun. At one point, an enemy faces him, raises her guns, and is immediately blown up by friendly fire. Scene over. Yawn.
Making this worse is the fact that director Jon Hewitt and his writing partner Belinda McClory seem uninterested in exploring Rick as a character – with his backstory needlessly held back for a predictable (and yet totally unbelievable) twist, we’re given no reason to care whether it’s him or his opponents who inevitably end up dead. The non-stop use of CCTV, news footage, and incredibly annoying presenters is also a problem – it alienates us from him as a character (at one point, the film cuts to a news report mere seconds into a car chase scene), making the act of following Rick’s journey as empty as if we actually were watching this reality TV show.
The Elimination Game takes a story that has been told before and tells it again, badly. With a character-less lead character, action-less action scenes, and nothing creative to add to the genre, it’s a difficult one to recommend.
Special Features: Trailer
THE ELIMINATION GAME / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: JON HEWITT / SCREENPLAY: JON HEWITT, BELINDA MCCLORY / STARRING: DOMINIC PURCELL, VIVA BIANCA, ROBERT TAYLOR, NICHOLAS HAMMOND / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 12TH