Fans of Ozploitation will know about the original “Turkey Shoot”, a tight and fun little thriller about “deviants” held in a re-education centre getting hunted and killed – also known as “Blood Camp Thatcher”, a title which held more significance in the early 1980s. Well, any good idea is worth plundering, and that’s why we’re here.
I’m sorry, readers, but the trailer fooled me. It looked like a futuristic camp bit of fun, with a stoic Dominic Purcell offing a weird and colourful selection of characters; but what we get is some sort of mix of “The Running Man” and all those “The Most Dangerous Game” ripoffs, with barely any of the original movie. Purcell is Rick Tyler, an army assassin who kills the Libyan dictator in some attempt to stop “World War Africa”, with a mighty impressive bullet which makes his head explode; but the next thing we see is “three years later”, with Purcell in the Neo-Alcatraz prison.
These flavours of some sort of dystopian future are dotted throughout (Tripoli is seen as some CGI mega-metropolis, oddly), but really add nothing to the movie and aren’t used in a particularly interesting way. Purcell fights off a murder attempt while inside prison, and then for some reason is picked to be the next contestant on “Turkey Shoot”, the world’s most popular TV show. Round 1 – runner against four trained, armed killers; the runner has 90 minutes to get to a large glowing box and open it with his thumbprint. Round 2 – eight trained killers; and no-one’s ever made it to round 3, where the prize is freedom.
I suppose we ought to talk about how this movie really doesn’t make a lick of sense, and this is as good a time as any. The show has been going for at least three years, and no-one has ever made it to round 3? Imagine “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” where no-one ever got past £32,000, and how boring that would be. The most famous of the killers is the sniper, “Ramrod”, who just waits for the runner to get near the box and then kills them. Does that sound like a lot of fun to anyone? “Oh great, the massively outmatched guy got shot by the hidden sniper. Let’s be sure to tune in next week!” The rest of the hunters are a colourful, multi-ethnic group of slightly pudgy, unthreatening-looking killers.
Oh, and Ramrod used to be in the army with Rick, which makes no sense either – and the General who sent Rick to kill the Libyan leader didn’t really want him to succeed, but then has a crisis of conscience about starting another world war so sends one of his soldiers, Jill (Viva Bianca), to rescue him from Turkey Shoot. Plus there’s the TV network representative who seems to have a finger in every pie…
I feel analysis of this movie continuing to slip away. It’s all to do with the assassination, and the way that he ended up in prison because the murders of a bunch of women and children was pinned on him – all of which is crucial to the war, for some reason. So, they really want to kill Rick, but the only way they could think of to do this was have other inmates try and shiv him. Why not have a guard shoot him and blame it on an escape? Why not poison his food? Anything other than “put him on a reality TV show where one of his old army buddies is the chief hunter”, really.
Let’s talk about the TV show aspect of it for a moment. A nice idea, if a little old hat, but they largely ignore this conceit except for the introduction of each round. When Purcell kills one of the hunters, they should be cutting back to the studio, showing the crowd cheering or booing, having interviews with retired hunters, anything other than the nothing they actually do.
The entire thing feels like it was written in the 90s and left largely unchanged. Thinking about the evolution of TV, and how it might be in the future, it hasn’t really got more dangerous or more violent (in the most part). If anything, it’s become much more corporate, with adverts being more fully integrated with shows and whole channels devoted to the minutiae of rich peoples’ lives. That idea that TV will evolve to the stage where murders will be shown live just doesn’t seem like a sensible extrapolation any more.
But let’s take it at face value. In round 1, he’s parachuted, mostly unconscious, into a forest. Now, if he’d not woken up before he hit the ground, or had taken a nasty knock on a branch, that would have been show over, immediately. Seems pretty stupid, right? And for round 2, he’s left (again unconscious) in the middle of a dock’s storage area, and as he wakes up he sees a woman riding a bike at his head. If he’d been a little slower to wake up, or she’d been a little faster, his head would have been blown up and the show would have ended in seconds. Again, seems pretty stupid, right? Oh, and without spoiling too much, round 3 is just set on the streets of a major city…and they’ve mentioned throughout how popular Rick is with the public. Do any of them help him? Or, despite the lack of any cash prize, do they just attack him constantly, wherever he goes? I’ll leave that non-question for you to figure out, dear reader.
I’m sure the filmmakers would defend this film with “it’s deliberately camp, OTT on purpose” but it just isn’t. Some of it is obviously played for laughs, but none of the actual hunt is, and when you get stuff like the President filmed in front of a plain white wall, or an Australian minister filmed in what looks like a filthy back alley, arguing “it’s camp” is just an excuse for not bothering to put any effort into your movie.
Purcell’s fine, although he could stand to express a few emotions other than stone-faced stoicism, and everyone else is as good as a bunch of Australians putting on American accents could be. It just looks cheap, though, as if they started making a bit of effort but then the money ran out so they just did stuff in plain rooms and back streets and with security cameras.
It’s not the worst movie ever, but it definitely needed someone who was prepared to commit to the concept, or someone who could see the huge flaws in the script (both direction and script are from Jon Hewitt). I can forgive cheapness – it’s an indie movie made in Australia – but I can’t forgive laziness. Stick to the original, or just put a pin in a list of movies which rip off “The Most Dangerous Game”, and you should be able to do better than this.
Rating: thumbs down