Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Elimination Game: Turkey Shoot Reconceived and Reloaded

It is the near future or maybe right now. The world is sick of the perennial world war engulfing Africa, but they are delighted to be distracted by bloodsport on television. It would sound almost like a call back to the Roman Empire, but it is surprisingly clothed and chaste for a film produced by Brian Trenchard-Smith. Nevertheless, the Ozploitation legend gave his blessing to a new remake-re-conception of his cult favorite Turkey Shoot, a.k.a. Escape 2000, a.k.a. Blood Camp Thatcher. With a rather prosaic title befitting a film striving for phony relevancy, Jon Hewitt’s Elimination Game (trailer here) opens this Friday in select theaters.

It sure seems like Navy SEAL Rick Tyler capped the Libyan dictator in the opening sequence. However, the next thing we know, World War Africa is raging and Tyler has been convicted of a heinous massacre of innocent civilians. It is pretty clear what’s going on to everyone but Tyler. He will not have much time to puzzle things out either, when the Monty Halls in power offer him a deal. If he survives as a contestant on the human hunting show Turkey Shoot (“it’s live . . . with death”) he will win his freedom.

Of course, the deck will be stacked against him, but Tyler has a very particular set of skills. He also finds an unlikely ally in Commander Jill Wilson, who goes rogue when General Thatcher lets it slip they framed Tyler because you know why.

Fans will probably be disappointed by just how far removed Hewitt’s film is from the Trenchard-Smith original, which was a lot like an ultra-violent Roger Corman tropical prison movie. Perhaps most problematic is the film’s anti-septic vibe. Sure, it is violent at times, but it is incapable of real sleaze—and that is a problem for a re-re of Turkey Shoot.

Prison Break’s Dominic Purcell is not the most expressive actor holding an Equity card, but he is not a runny-nosed boy either. Let’s face it, anyone who can survive multiple Uwe Boll films (and we use that word liberally) should be at home in a Trenchard-Smith remake. In fact, he is perfectly credible in the action scenes and is a more than adequate brooder.

Purcell is not the problem. Unfortunately, he is working with a lame-brain script. The excessively bright and sterile atmosphere does not help either. It all looks very down-market television. You have to wonder if Trenchard-Smith was constantly scrubbing the sets, so he wouldn’t have to pay a cleaning fee.

Still, fans of the original will be happy to see alumni like Roger Ward and Carmen Duncan turn up in minor roles, as the Libyan dictator and the president, respectively. It is also rather mind-blowing to see Nicholas Hammond, the late 1970s Spiderman, pop up as Gen. Thatcher. He also turns his scenes with Purcell rather well, so it kind of baffling the Marvel film juggernaut has not found a fan-servicing cameo-spot for him yet.

Instead of whipping up our vicarious bloodlust, Elimination just leaves us cold. It is too calculated, too conventional, and too tightly controlled. There are some nice fight sequences sprinkled in, but it still won’t satisfy exploitation connoisseurs. Not really recommended, Elimination Game opens this Friday (6/26) in limited markets and also launches on VOD.