El Nominado (2003) Movie Review

I’m sorry to say that I can’t give the Chilean movie “El Nominado” (aka “The Nominee”) any points for originality. The “reality TV goes bad” gimmick has been done before, in films like “Series 7” and “My Little Eye”, as well as showing up in one of the many installments of the “Halloween” franchise of all places. It’s not an original concept in the slightest, and if anything “Nominado” is a tad late to the party. And since it couldn’t be first, or second (or even third, for that matter), you’d think the filmmakers would feel the need to have something good under their sleeves. Well, I’m sorry to say, you’d be wrong.

“El Nominado” is a bad movie with a weak premise, weaker actors, and laughable characters. If the plot isn’t farfetched enough, the film’s attempts at social commentary and “Natural Born Killer”-ish satire falls flat because — are you ready? — it’s all been done before.

In “Nominado”, a Chilean reality TV show billed as the most “extreme” show ever puts 10 strangers inside an underground bunker somewhere in the mountains, where they must stay for 90 days and the last person standing wins fame and fortune. But the show is going badly, and the audience is bored. That is, until contestant Miguel (Sebastian Layseca), who confesses that he’s a “bad loser”, refuses to leave the show and instead pulls a gun and executes a fellow contestant on live TV. Suddenly the show is a hit, which begs the question: Will the soulless network execs allow the massacre to continue, or will they stop it?

Really, do you have to ask? Nothing about “El Nominado” is the least bit subtle. The screenplay by co-writers/directors Nacho Argiro and Gabriel Lopez are redundant and uninspired. Without knowing anything about the film, my guess is that the two rookie directors split the directing chores, with one handling all the scenes inside the bunker, and the other responsible for the scenes inside the broadcast booth and the man on the street interviews, not to mention those oh-so-familiar “people watching the show intently” scenes.

Not that it matters if Argiro and Lopez split the directing duties, because the film is not aesthetically impressive at all (opening helicopter shot notwithstanding). The sequences inside the bunker, which are ripe for a taut and suspenseful atmosphere as a crazed (and for some odd reason, shirtless) Miguel stalks his fellow contestants, are instead mundane and dull. The film makes poor use of the bunker’s architecture, resulting in what looks like characters running around the same hallways and rooms again and again like mindless idiots.

Sebastian Layseca, as the sociopath du jour, tries his best to liven things up with what can only be described as cartoonish villainy. Alas, he’s not up to the task, and seeing Layseca, a skinny, geekish kid walking around carrying a gun that looks like a giant prop in his hand, is a bit humorous. Interestingly enough, the film even manages to throw in a gratuitous sex scene completely out of left field and set to one of those nondescript pop songs to boot.

For genre fans, there’s little about “Nominado” to gravitate to. It’s not especially violent or gory, or mildly entertaining for that matter. If anything, it tends to bore, with too many pointless scenes of the irritating studio execs basically not doing much of anything, but somehow filling up the screen for half of the running time anyway. The violence is too stilted, and it’s a bit hard to imagine the rail-thin Layseca (you can see his spine sticking out of his back!) bullying people around so easily.

How smart are these soon-to-be victims? Consider this: to hedge their bets, the studio has a mole among the contestants. When the killings begin, the mole flees with the others, and then pulls out a cellphone he had been hiding and calls the studio for salvation. They refuse because, you know, that whole soulless studio exec thing. But instead of grabbing the phone and calling the cops (who, one would imagine, isn’t especially concern about ratings) our intrepid fame-seekers instead beat the mole to death and never once glances at the cellphone.

Such is the quality in the writing, directing, and acting of “El Nominado”.

Nacho Argiro, Gabriel Lopez (director) / Nacho Argiro, Gabriel Lopez (screenplay)
CAST: Cristian de la Fuente …. Rodrigo
Ren’ Lavan …. Kune
Julieta Cardinali

Buy El Nominado on DVD