Details: 90 mins, Australia, English
Synopsis: A shady producer (Jasper Bagg) will do anything for a ratings bonanza, so decides to make an extreme and controversial reality television show: 'So You Want To Be A Terrorist?' Filmed in secret, three judges try to find an amateur master-terrorist through a series of life-threatening challenges and eliminations. But before it goes to air, the show is hacked and they get more than they bargained for...
Low-budget black comedy skewers reality TV and the quest for fame.
No one can accuse Ms McLachlan of striving to be politically correct
Shot on a shoestring budget in a remarkably fast eight days, Australian writer-director Dee McLachlan’s 10 Terrorists! is an audacious exercise in filmmaking, extending a middle finger to a sizable section of the Australian community.
In a savage satire of the crasser aspects of the all-pervasive reality TV phenomenon (and God knows that’s fertile ground), the film takes a calculated risk: If you are a fan of the genre you will probably resent the virulent, mocking tone. However, if you don’t care for that brand of TV programming, why watch a movie that pillories it?
The film also walks a tightrope in depicting terrorism as the format of an extreme reality show. Sacha Baron Cohen ventured into similar territory with The Dictator, which demonstrated it’s difficult to extract humour from extremists. And it pokes fun at numerous other targets including tree-hugging greenies, gays, Aboriginal stereotypes, Somali pirates and computer hackers. No one can accuse Ms McLachlan of striving to be politically correct. The result is a lurid combination of elements of The Hunger Games and Four Lions mixed with exaggerated versions of shows such as Big Brother, The X Factor, Survivor and The Amazing Race.
The privately-funded film won the Kickass award for original filmmaking at the LA Comedy Festival in April, fitting recognition for its daring and unconventional approach. It’s another distinctive effort from the writer-director who made the 2007 sex trafficking thriller The Jammed.
The plot follows a sleazy Los Angeles producer, Max Buckmeister (Jasper Bagg), who comes up with the concept of a global TV show entitled So You Want to Be a Terrorist! More than 17,000 hopefuls from 34 countries go to the auditions, winnowed down to 10 finalists. At stake is a prize of $1 million to be spent on a terrorist cause of the winner’s choice.
The three judges, all ex-military, are a former MI6 agent (Richard Cawthorne), a Pakistani explosives expert (Sachin Joab) and a Colombian freedom fighter (Jackie Diamond).
The rapid-fire auditions are fun, skipping through caricatures including a Canadian who lives with his mother, the self-styled “George Clooney of Iran” and a dark-skinned girl who pretends to be African.
The 10 contestants then undergo a series of ‘games’ in which they are tortured, gassed, shot at, humiliated and forced to jump out of planes, with eliminations after each. Among the most entertaining are BlasterChef (where they’re taught how to make bombs, with a predictable outcome), The Amazing Chase through the streets of Melbourne, and Queer Spy for the Terrorist (makeovers from mincing stylists). Among the least effective or interesting is The Armed Apprentice, with a very poor imitation of Donald Trump masquerading as an arms dealer.
As the games continue, it’s clear the unfortunate players are not hardcore terrorists but more or less average people who are desperate for their 15 minutes of fame plus the lure of winning a million bucks.
The jokes occasionally veer into excruciatingly bad taste, such as a caption over a babbling Japanese contestant which explains that the Japanese translator is being treated for radiation, and another participant who gets confused when asked to spell out the exact date of 9/11. A sequence supposedly filmed at Abu Ghraib prison is jarringly unfunny, featuring a female guard who looks like she stepped out of that old TV series Prisoner.
The movie has all the hallmarks of the TV shows it is skewering, including frenetic pacing, quick edits, split-screen, pulsating music and a vapid host (Kendal Rae) who loses her cool as mayhem ensues.
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