Tuesday, March 9, 2010


A Panther Joe Diversion

Director: Bill Guttentag
Starring: Eva Mendes, David Krumholtz, Katie Cassidy, and Jay Hernandez
Release: 2007

I should start out saying that I was roped into this flick because Katie Cassidy was attached to it--I would watch that girl mow a lawn if it were on DVD, but I digress-- and when I read the synopsis I was instantly excited.

Live! (pronounced like Saturday Night Live) is classified as a 'mockumentary' but I tend to believe those are sarcastic or humorous but the tone set in this movie was far from it. The movie follows Rex (Krumholtz) and his documentary about television producer Katy (Mendes) throughout the course of her stressful work day, which includes her pitches to advertisers and network presidents for zany reality shows.
After mulling around a bit, one of Katy's assistants jokingly asks about a Russian roulette based reality show and you can almost see the wheels in Katy's head start to turn. This is where the movie starts to take off as the joyful producer now has a chance to take her network, ABN, out of the ratings toilet. The only question remains: will this project ever make it to air?

I enjoyed the concept of this film that was part The Office and part The Running Man until we were subject to the potholes of getting the show broadcast. It felt like the movies foundation was based upon the actual show, so the journey from conception to production came off as mailed in. What saved the movie, however, were the interjections of the other characters through vignettes put together to promote the actual contestants. This is where we meet the six contestants (for six chambers in the pistol) and are instantly attached to them because of their distance from the actual show. One of the presidents said he wanted to showcase each contestant like those sappy back stories you see on the Olympics, and it was pulled off brilliantly.

Each of the six contestants chosen were unique and divided the general public enough to where people being interviewed could identify with somebody and root for them. Whether it is Jewel (Cassidy), the girl trying to make it big in Hollywood, Pablo (Hernandez), the gay Mexican cook looking to fit in, or Brad (Eric Lively), the surfer looking to just live out the easy life with his girlfriend, you are attached to each one with anticipation as we are drawn closer to this show that is creeping up like a bad omen.

But how do they convince people to become contestants on this show? Money, of course. Lots of it and lots of it for everyone who doesn't have their head blown off.
This wasn't a big budget film but it did make you think throughout its entirety. You will find yourself asking, "would I participate in that show? I mean, I have a five in six chance of winning millions." Even if you find yourself past that ethics hurdle you are met with a more simple "would I watch that show if it were on television?"

The ending is what really left an impression with me. I don't often stick by what I think might happen, but I was damn sure I knew how it was going to end and I was way off. I even went so far to announce to my roommate my guess for the ending and was left with egg on my face. It wasn't a surprise or twist ending by any means, nor was their overwhelming evidence as to why my prediction should have come to fruition--it was just a damn fine way to complete a story.

This is one to check out for its simplicity. Where many of this genre rely on the 'inmates' or 'death row convicts' angle to showcase our own thirst for blood, this effort brings to the limelight something a lot more palpable. This is your choice and this is a ton of money...
...so would you do it?


Ben Pearson said...

Cool. I remember seeing a trailer for this before it came out, and for some reason I thought it was coming to theaters. I guess it went straight to DVD, but it's good to hear that it's a quality flick.

For a movie with a similar theme, check out "Network."

Panther Joe said...

it was at tribeca in 2007 and wasn't released on DVD until a couple of months ago. crazy.

Alan Trehern said...

My game show would have a bullet in every chamber. I keep the money.