(2002, US, 101 min) Dir Roger Bertle. Cast Timothy Olyphant, Taye Diggs, Michelle Rodriguez.
It’s the future. Outside the cities are a wasteland. The population are controlled by TV. The most popular show on TV is a game show called Judge Shock. Basically the show uses convicts as contestants (yes, like The Running Man) who have to evade Judge Shock. The Judge himself is a masked assassin a bit like the Stig from Top Gear but he can do kung-fu and shoot electric from his hands and stuff too. So anyway – the film opens as a new episode with contestants Paul, John and Lucy (Olyphant, Diggs and Rodriguez respectively) dropped into the dark, maze-like arena where the game is to play out. Of course they’re all there for crimes they didn’t commit and of course they’re all adept at martial arts and that so there’s a good fight in them. Of course they also manage, in the course of the film, to best the not actually invulnerable Judge and uncover the reality of the show which, yeah, leads them to a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top. Bertle’s got a way with the action which is shot clearly and kinetically and the film’s Matrix influenced look is great even if it’s derivative, all inky blacks and neons with sets that are simultaneously spacey and claustrophobic – the only problem is the plotting by numbers that is the script. Oh, and the awful title. Ignore both if you can though and stay for the action – it’s worth it.