All or Nothing

A high-stakes reality show gone awry is the backdrop for the mildly provocative media meditation "All or Nothing." Post-apocalyptic allusions place this single-set encounter group squarely in the sights of fantasy/sci-fi sprocket operas, though sheer novelty of item's sheer novelty could attract mainstream fests and tube sales.

With:
With: Miroslav Kolar, Alice Snirychova, Karel Zima, Radek Zima, Katerina Janeckova, Miroslav Vrba.

A high-stakes reality show gone awry is the backdrop for the mildly provocative media meditation “All or Nothing.” Post-apocalyptic allusions place this single-set encounter group squarely in the sights of fantasy/sci-fi sprocket operas, though item’s sheer novelty could attract mainstream fests and tube sales.

As contestants trudge down a darkened passageway, a breathless narrator sets the offstage action by declaring, “The world is at war, global civilization is crumbling … only your family survived by escaping underground.” As the way back has been cut off and help won’t arrive for 30 days, individual craftiness is required to claim millions in prize money. Only by pressing the red button on a mobile-like communicator clipped to the belt can the title contest be called off.

The game is afoot when blindfolded contestants find themselves sealed in a grimy concrete bunker. The father figure is blustery Vlad (Miroslav Kolar), mom is timid Renata (Alice Snirychova), son is “really psyched” Petr (Karel Zima) and daughter is rebellious Kamila (Katerina Janeckova). Rounding out the group is grandpa Bautner (Miroslav Vrba) and Pavel (Radek Zima), a doctoral student in mass communication theory who’s along to chart individual progress for a paper he calls “A Symbolic Family Fights for Audience Favor.”

Claiming “we can’t bore the viewers,” Vlad sets about organizing the group. Problem is, the rules, posted to the wall like the fire-drill plans in a hotel room, are both unclear and contradictory. What’s worse, nobody seems to be able to detect an actual camera. A way out appears, but internecine conflicts overwhelm the “family,” followed by an ironic coda.

A distant cousin to cult faves “Series 7: The Contenders” and “Cube,” “All or Nothing” hasan inventive premise that suffers only from lack of a payoff commensurate with the setup. The ensemble is fine in an encounter group-ish kind of way, and while writer-director Karel Zalud makes solid points about the futility of the reality-show genre, they’re obvious ones that cry out for a little “Big Brother”-ish intervention.

Tech tasks are crisp and evocative, with Tomas Novacek’s fluid camerawork exploring every crevice of the enclosure and Ellen Horska’s costumes a vivid reminder of their deteriorating state.

All or Nothing

Czech Republic

Production: A Vesfilm, Universal Production Partners production. Produced by Libor Zlomek. Directed, written by Karel Zalud.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Tomas Novacek; editor, Tonicka Jankova; music, Michal Vich; production designers, Richard Zachar, Zuzana Vejsicka; costume designer, Ellen Horska; sound (Dolby Digital), Daniel Nemec, Michael Micek. Reviewed on DVD, Sydney, April 27, 2007. (In Finale Plzen Film Festival.) Running time: 106 MIN.

With: With: Miroslav Kolar, Alice Snirychova, Karel Zima, Radek Zima, Katerina Janeckova, Miroslav Vrba.

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