Series 7: The Contenders (2001)

8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Nice concept, well executed

So-so ending takes away from the bulk of the movie

Movie Info

Movie Name: Series 7:  The Contenders

Studio: Film4

Genre(s): Action/Adventure/Drama/Comedy

Release Date(s): January 20, 2001

MPAA Rating: R


Being pregnant sucks…as much as capping a guy in the ass

Welcome to The Contenders—Series 7 marathon.  The winner of Series 6, Dawn Lagarto (Brooke Smith) is pushing her pregnancy to the limit and there are a new group of contestants in the game of kill-or-be-killed.  Connie Trabucco (Marylouise Burke)—a 57 year-old emergency room nurse, Jeffrey Norman (Glenn Fitzgerald)—a 33 year old artist who’s dying of testicular cancer, Anthony Reilly (Michael Kaycheck)—a 39 year-old unemployed asbestos remover, Franklin James (Richard Venture)—a 72 year-old retiree, and Lindsay Berns (Merritt Wever)—an 18 year-old student.  There can be only one winner and Newbury, Connecticut is the host for the series.  Who will win their freedom?

Series 7:  The Contenders was directed by Daniel Minahan and is made to look like a reality TV show.  It is a satire but in itself has a lot of action and drama.  It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2001 and was originally perceived as a mock-reality TV show for the networks…and to clarify, there are no series 1-6 or a series 8.


This is my rifle, this is my gun…one is for fighting the other’s for fun…Doesn’t quite work as well here.

Series 7:  The Contenders was released just after the first big boom of reality shows led by Survivor. It really wasn’t trying to capitalize on them and in fact was in production before Survivor even was released.  The movie actually borrows more from movies like The Running Man or Battle Royale which had been released the year before in Japan.  Both movies had unwilling citizens forced into a popular game show against their will and killing the other contestants is the only way out…much like the upcoming Hunger Games movie based on the novels of the same name.  This format works in all three movies, but this movie really plays up the reality show aspect.

What is great about Series 7 is that it plays like something on MTV with big credits, lead-ins, and a Cops style of shooting.  When a player runs, the camera runs.  There are confessionals and sappy music to play up emotional moments since the show is manufactured in post-production and not live.  It didn’t go as far as to put fake commercials in and if this was a real show, it was only about four episodes and that doesn’t seem quite realistic.


If you aren’t going do the little airplane thing, I’m not taking my medicine

Series 7 has a good cast.  Brooke Smith who’s worked steadily in Hollywood for years but big claim to fame is being the girl in the pit in Silence of the Lambs does a great job carrying this movie, despite never having carried a movie before.  Marylouise Burke plays a nice villain as the “Christian” and kind nurse who is able to turn killer as soon as the game begins.  Glenn Fitzgerald was a good sick guy, but I felt his character got too healthy, too fast near the end of the movie for not being able to walk.  Merritt Wever showed skill in this early role and has since gone on to better things including Nurse Jackie.  A small cameo in one of his early roles is Will Arnett as the narrator and host of the show.


I’m going to kill every Motherf*@!ing last one of you!

What ruins Series 7 is the ending.  I can see what they were trying to do (and the recreation was kind of fun), but I wanted more.  The ending is also a bit obscured since it isn’t obvious if Brooke Smith’s character is really dead or not (since you don’t see the death on camera), Glenn Fitzgerald’s character is “killed” but survives to be the next head contender, and his wife Doria (Angelina Phillips) denies killing anyone.  It just seemed like a weak ending to a strong movie (plus it doesn’t quite make sense that the winner enters the contest again…if it is advertised that the prize is freedom).

Series 7 should definitely be sought out.  It can be kind of difficult to find and has gone in-and-out of print a few times.  I really don’t understand why this hasn’t become more of a cult movie.  The movie hopefully will come back with the release of The Hunger Games in the theater since it does follow a bit of the same story idea.  I’d still love to see a Series 8 (or a prequel), but I know I’m dreaming when it comes to that.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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