Dominic Purcell sleeps through this lazy and incoherent remake of an exploitation cult classic.
It’s the near future and a wrongfully imprisoned ex-soldier named Rick Tyler (Dominic Purcell) is given a shot at freedom. Chosen for the extremity of his supposed crimes, he is dropped into a brutal game show called “Turkey Shoot.” The object is simple: survive. Four “shooters” of varied talents are assigned to each level, hunting the convict and aiming to stop him from reaching a designated endpoint within a specific amount of time. Depending on when you grew up, this might sound like a rip-off of The Running Man or The Hunger Games, while in actuality, it’s an update on the cult classic exploitation film, Turkey Shoot (aka Escape 2000). As such, one can only hope for some fun stunts and a cheekily employed b-grade storyline, but there is neither creativity nor camp in Elimination Game, and the film winds up being just as forgettable and generically awful as its American re-titling.
There are several basic plotlines to director Jon Hewitt’s on-screen world, but none of them is given enough attention. On the one hand, we have a government conspiracy against our framed hero inciting his need to clear his name. On the other, we have two crucial relationships and their relevant backstories: A romantic one between Tyler and his rescuer, Jill (Viva Bianca) and an antagonistic one with former friend and celebrated Turkey Shoot sniper, “Ramrod” (Robert Taylor). The third thread competing for attention is the most interesting, which is the game show iteself, which provides the action of the film as well its satire. In theory there is plenty going on in the film, but the total refusal of the writers to make anything more than the obvious out of each of these familiar themes renders the entire film as more dumb and meaningless then its complicated premise may suggest.
Elimination Game’s lack of detail is mind-boggling, especially considering the possibilities of the Turkey Shoot game. Here is where the real action of the film lies, not to mention where the stakes lay the highest and yet it’s constantly neglected. Each round in the show is terribly brief, as Tyler cuts through one heavily armed opponent after another, improbably evading point-blank gunfire and miraculously healing from whatever wounds he suffers. To give an idea of the action’s hastiness, the first round lasts all of 8 minutes and the climactic round pitting our protagonist against an entire city of potential shooters (what an awesomely absurd setup!) is dealt with in a speedy montage.
Of all the missed opportunities, the lazily designed enemies are what sting the most. Cheesy monikers like “Killshot,” “Golgotha” and “Armageddon” fit right into the ridiculous world on display and the hosts’ enthusiastic intros promise a crazy and diverse crew of bosses to defeat, but their flesh and blood representations never live up to the hype. A Japanese woman with precisely honed ninja skills. An American longbow specialist. A beefy, Turkish wrestler-type with a proclivity for the scimitar. This is just a smattering of what Turkey Shoot has in store, but when put into the field, the rivals are completely underutilized. Most are dispatched within moments of their first encounter and not a single one-liner or personality trait can be spotted among them.
The flavorless aesthetic extends to all things outside the game show as well. Matters of character are skimmed over and histories are vague. Rick and Jill’s relationship stands out in particular, as it is frequently taken for granted, an obligatory sex scene being the only thing that denotes any kind of passion between them. Few if any characters are given much to work with, but the actors contribute very little personal flair. Robert Taylor appears bored and Dominic Purcell is a charisma vacuum in the leading role, serving as nothing more than a scowling sack of muscles. Perfectly bland in every way, the film doesn’t even deliver on a visual level as an ugly grey color scheme dominates throughout.
If I were to stop at this point, I’d be leaving the impression that Elimination Game is a mediocre and tedious mess of bargain bin quality. But there’s one more thing that elevates it from mere mediocrity to infuriating ineptitude. It’s the jaw-dropping incoherence. In many B-action movies, the audience is asked to accept a lot of ludicrous happenings, but when it comes to Elimination Game, the requests are unreasonable, doubly so because of the seriousness with which it carries itself. The holes in logic are so blatantly obvious and so easily fixable that one has to wonder if the script was ever given a second draft. This is more than just plot quirks; it’s spatial coherence as well. Why’s, when’s and how’s pile up on every action scene and queries like “How do you go from being in the middle of a highway car chase to running around in a city within two shots?” are never answered with even the slightest bit of verbal justification. Considering the straightforwardness of the story and its action, confusing things so much seems like it would be difficult, but Jon Hewitt somehow pulls it off. If that’s an accomplishment, then I guess it’s the only one the film has to its name.
A thumbs-down is a no-brainer here, but if you do decide to check out Elimination Game, be sure to set your expectations low (as in below ground level). For those tickled by threadbare tales of tough and grizzled men punching and kicking their way to justice, the film might manage to hold interest, but I’m doubtful it’ll do anything more.