BNFF12 REVIEW: 10Terrorists! [2012]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 88 minutes | Release Date: March 29th, 2012 (Australia)
Studio: The Picture Tank
Director(s): Dee McLachlan
Writer(s): Dee McLachlan / Osamah Sami (contributing writer) /
Dee McLachlan, Script-Tank & Lenny de Vries (story)

“What’s the difference between a terrorist and a person?”

It’s not a matter of if we’ll ever get to the point where reality television tackles a subject like terrorism for entertainment, but when. Preempting that unfortunate day, writer/director Dee McLachlan gives us the very funny and timely game show entitled “Who Wants to be a Terrorist” as the premise to her satiric look at salacious media and the warped minds it reaches, 10Terrorists! Mocking the likes of “American Idol”, “The Amazing Race”, “The Apprentice”, and “Iron Chef” amongst others, the film pits ten contestants from very disparate nationalities and ethnicities against each other to prove who’s most worthy of becoming a bona fide enemy of the state. The judges, comprised of an MI6 agent (Richard Cawthorne), Colombian Rosalinda Olivera Sanchez (Jackie Diamond), and Pakistani Miki Miraj (Sachin Joab), look to find the fiercest, most cold-blooded monsters they can.

The audition process is high farce—or exactly like “Idol”—with 17,163 entrants vying to be included in the final ten. We watch each sit with the judges and explain why they’re ready to go against the world. Some have legitimate reasons of wanting to destroy dictatorships or seeking revenge for a fallen family member to an imperialist regime, but others simply enjoy making bombs. So, mixed with the untranslatable deep-voiced ranting of Japan (Masa Yamaguchi) winning a spot for his tenacity, there are the likes of Milan Perkins‘ amateur explosives expert taking his guitar onstage to sing a song about his amoral mind. From Colombia to Kazahkstan, these eco-terrorists, cyber-terrorists, jihadists, and pirates all try to explain how their brand of guerilla warfare is best.

At the end of the day, though, the judges want a collection of people to wreak havoc and kill remorselessly. The grand prize may be a million bucks—courtesy of producer Max Brunette (Jasper Bagg) safe in his mansion back home loving every minute of the carnage—but the true bragging rights are to prove they have what it takes. Cat (Leah de Niese) wants to enact change, Azim (Osamah Sami) looks to counter his ‘George Clooney of Iran’ image with badassery, and Yah Yah (Samir Malik) hopes to leave his crybaby ways behind to follow his Somali pirate father’s footsteps despite the man’s demise from accidentally boarding of a Navy ship instead of a cargo vessel. Comically, however, it may be more fun seeing Sam (Matt Hetherington) long to break things and Cleopatra (Ratidzo Mambo) con her way in as an African by ‘playing the game’.

And this is why the wake-up calls sprinkled throughout are so hilarious. Much to host Simone Price’s (Kendal Rae) chagrin, we don’t know if live fire, real tear gas, and authentic bomb components are being utilized until people start dying. It’s the age-old question of, “how real is real?” and Brunette wants nothing less than life or death stakes. As a result, ‘Blaster Chef’ comes with dire consequences and ‘The Amazing Chase’ forces two teams to actually steal a car in order to acquire the weaponry key to winning the game. Innocent bystanders are accosted and scared while Australian newscasters quizzically wonder what’s happening in their backyard. Everything onscreen is filtered as though we in the audience are watching the show complete with behind the scenes candidness and in-your-face self-promotions.

With pitch-perfect sound effects at an obnoxious volume and animated graphics popping up to display the new challenge’s title or information on the judges, one does get transported into the adrenaline rush. The over-exuberance of all involved comes through and I seriously wouldn’t be surprised to walk into my parents home one day to see it on the television. Each judge gets the attitude just right and their excitement at sending their contestants into dangerous and illegal situations is horribly fantastic. They revel in seeing environmentalist Terra (Veronica Sywak) calling Ying (Frieda McKenna) a fat lesbian or Africa (Terry Yeboah) humbly thanking all involved for giving him the chance at terrorist glory. It’s a vanity project to them anyway—to get paid and have a little fun torturing the final four in Abu Ghraib.

If I were to fault anything it would be the constant look at Brunette’s activities in Los Angeles. It’s pretty much the Tom Cruise role from Tropic Thunder but without the impact. The real fun is inside the show and I’m not sure we ever really need or want to excise ourselves from it. Yes, the initial look at the producer’s antics and absurd reasoning behind his creation is funny, but those interviews are part of the charade. Even the evolution of hacker Phoenix (Aljin Abella) becomes too much in the grand scheme of things once shown away from the camera. Played off like a William Hung in audition, it’s a treat seeing this twelve-year old looking kid trying to look intimidating when asked about hand-to-hand combat abilities. Where McLachlan eventually takes his story, however, only subverts the façade of the show.

Besides this, however, 10Terrorists! delivers on its goals. Succeeding in satire and comedy, I think anyone who has been conscious in the aughts will be able to relate to the absurdity onscreen. I personally despise all reality TV but have been exposed to it by friends and families who love the vicarious feeling of taking the journey to root for and mock their favorites. But here I was cheering on Adam Pierzchalski‘s Kret, Yeboah’s Africa, and Yamaguchi’s Japan for the simple fact their foreign stereotypes made them appear more ‘terrorist’ by the definition I implicitly give the word—and I’m Middle Eastern. Terra, Cleopatra, and Sam are all posers in this context because I’ve been so ingrained to believe these monsters only come from certain nations. So, not only does the film expose society’s slow dissolution of human life’s value, it also shows how brainwashed we’ve all become.

[1] Bodhi threatens Big Boss
[2] Camp Six – Dressed in overalls imported from Guantanamo Bay – Yeboah & Pierzchlski
[3] At Guantanamo Bay

7 Thoughts to “BNFF12 REVIEW: 10Terrorists! [2012]”

  1. Mark V

    The whole “terrorism as reality TV show” angle was included in the vastly superior “Network” more than 35 years ago (“The Mao Tse Tung Hour”). So this is hardly a new idea. Of course, we’ve seen a number of “murder game show” movies over the years as well, such as “The Running Man” and “Death Race 2000”; films much more entertaining than this effort from Australia.

    “10 Terrorists!” plays like an Australian comedy show five-minute sketch stretched across 95 minutes. It provides a few laughs but quickly runs out of steam.


    It may well be an intriguing premise, but it ultimately has nowhere to go. When you think about it for more than a nanosecond, the ending makes no sense whatsoever! So if Phoenix is so clever and with so much power, why does he care about some stupid game show in the first place? If he is such a great cyber-terrorist, why not just rip-off a few banks, make a few million and be happy?


    I know it’s meant to be a silly comedy satire, but even silly comedy satire should make sense on a rudimentary level. As for the humour, much of it is of the potty-mouthed variety. I’m no prude, but it’s obvious that whenever the scriptwriters couldn’t think of anything wity to say, a four-letter word or two was inserted to fill the blanks.

    It would’ve been a good idea for inclusion on a comedy sketch show, but that’s as far as it should’ve went.

    1. i totally agree about it falling apart at the end, but i did laugh pretty consistently throughout which vaulted it from 6/10 to 7/10.

      and while the whole satire of reality TV has been done often, it’s nice to see one in the actual style of television’s current slate. it’s one thing to be sci-fi dystopic in The Running Man and another to blatantly call out “American Idol” and the like as this film does.

  2. Zahra Bay

    I don’t think Mark V gets this movie at all. It’s a satire on reality shows today – today – and I LAUGHED my head off when I caught it at the comedy festival in melbourne. i loved the cyber guy—he wanted his 15min of fame and the money…

  3. Trish Robson

    I agree with Zahra. I saw it too at the opening night at Melbourne International Comedy Festival and I laughed a lot and I loved it. I think it is Borat meets Fahrenheit 9/11 and it is going to be a cult comedy classic in its own way.

  4. Mark V

    Mister Mobarak, this may interest you–and I do stress, this is NOT an elaborate prank:

    I’ve just received a telephone message, followed by an e-mail, from one of the main crew members of the film (who is known to me), telling me, on behalf of one (or more)of the other filmmakers, to (wait for it!)cease and desist from posting (negatively)about the film “10 Terrorists!”
    online. You see, because I didn’t like the film, they don’t appreciate my comments, and have requested that I stop commenting about it. No, this isn’t a joke.

    So much for free speech. So I’m not allowed to have an opinion, is that it? I have to nod mindlessly and follow everyone else? It goes to show you how little faith even the makers of this film have in the final product, that they must witch-hunt bloggers who do not fancy their efforts, and have one of the producers telephone me at my house,
    and e-mail me on top of it, requesting that I “say nothing negative” about the film on the internet.

    What a bunch of fragile egos we have in the local film industry. What happened to free speech? How ironic that the makers of “10 Terrorists!” would go to such lengths to silence even the slightest critical dissent.

    Zahra and Trish: it may interest you to know that not even one of the producers (the same one who telephoned and e-mailed me) liked the film. In fact, when I e-mailed the (co-)producer with my (extended) critique of what I felt “didn’t work” in the film, guess what? The producer (who also co-storied)agreed 100 percent!

    Yes, Zahra, I “got” the film–just because somebody happens to not like a film, it doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t “get it”. The film is terribly unsubtle and full of the most obvious pop references: “Blaster Chef”, “Queer Eye”, et al. So yeah, we get it. If you found it amusing, great. As I said it my critique, it would have made a great mini-comedy sketch. However, it was a good “short idea” stretched to overlength.

    The Phoenix character–after his own 15 minutes of fame? At one point in the film, he mocks the contestants for being so pathetic as to want fame in the first place.
    Maybe while you were laughing, I was paying attention to small yet pivotal details like this. As for going after the prize money–again, it makes no sense. Phoenix is a cyber-genius. If he is so gifted as to be able to make entire buildings crumble to the ground, then surely he is clever enough to rip off a few banks, electronically transfer money into his bank account, undetected, fly to Barbados and live happily ever after.

    Zahra: “10 Terrorists!” is a film about reality TV, today, yes. But “Network” was not only made 36 years ago, it was also (at least) 36 years ahead of its time–meaning that even though it’s from the past, it’s even more relevant today, and shall continue to be pertinent beyond today. A lot of the stuff predicted by the film has actually become commonplace, whereas some of it may still be yet to come.

    I don’t think my comments are unreasonable. I just wonder if I can expect rocks thrown at my window when the producers of “10 Terrorists!” once again forget that this is Australia, not North Korea, and as somebody who attends literally hundreds of films at the cinema per year, I’m damn well entitled to my opinion. Just as you are yours.

    I’m more than happy to forward you the aforementioned e-mail, Mister Mobarak. I guess some people will go to any lengths to protect their chances at commercial distribution–even sussing out bloggers on the internet who are only expressing an opinion and calling them up at home telling them no-no!

    1. that is very disconcerting and i’m happy to keep your words on the thread of this post for others to read and make their own judgements.

      no reviewer should ever be on the payroll of a studio or speak an opinion other than their own whether positive or negative. not every film is going to be universally loved and the public reading deserves to hear all sides. that’s a real shame they contacted you like that.

      to counter this, i actually received an email from the director thanking me for the comments. it was quite nice too as she made sure to describe my criticisms (the third act and the producer role) as very welcome to her where comments on Facebook declared me being wrong. just because i had issues with certain aspects, however, i did have a fun time and my score reflected that.

      it’s a shame when producers step in with the bottom-line front and center and forget the goal is to reach as many people as possible. doing stuff like that is inexcusable and i applaud Dee McLachlan for not following suit and taking the praise along with the criticism. i’m a graphic artist myself and as any creative type knows, criticism is what makes you better.

  5. Hello Mark V. Of course you can have your say. And absolutely – this film is not for everyone. But from some very successful screenings, we know there is a global audience. Your comments (also on the Heckler page) reflect what seems to be a private conversation between you and a co-producer. I think you compromised her trust and integrity in an open forum, and that’s maybe why she emailed you – as her friend.

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