US / ~132 minutes in 6 episodes / color / Dissident, Crackle Dir & Scr: Ben Ketai Pr: Amy Kim Story: Ben Ketai, Ryan Lewis Cine: Tim Burton (i.e., Timothy A. Burton) Cast: Milo Ventimiglia, Nicky Whelan, Caitlin Carmichael, Diedrich Bader, Noel G, Jeff Branson, Brett Davern, Shaun Baker.
Defense attorney Ian Mitchell (Ventimiglia) one morning discovers on his doorstep an ornamented wooden box containing a gun, the photograph of a stranger—dentist Daniel Easton (Bader)—and a deadline by which he must kill Easton. Just as he’s picking the package up, someone starts shooting at him. He calls the cops, but the cops who arrive, led by Detective Inkster (Baker), act oddly—oddest of all, they leave the unregistered gun with him. At first Ian’s inclined just to blow the whole thing off, but then it becomes clear the lives of his daughter Ellie (Carmichael) and estranged wife Laura (Whelan) may be forfeit should he fail to fulfill his unsought contract.
He discovers he’s been made one of the players in a lethal game run for their own entertainment by a mysterious decadent group called The Watchers—one of whose agents proves to be Laura’s studly new boyfriend Chris (Branson). In the game, hapless victims must murder seemingly randomly chosen others while at the same time being themselves targets; as fuel to keep the “chosen” participating, their loved ones are threatened and/or abducted—and indeed Ian’s daughter Ellie is taken from him by two thugs in the guise of LAPD cops. (The conspiracy-theory trope that the LAPD is up to its eyes in this recurs throughout.)
Despite a soundtrack crammed with far too many heavily struck portentous chords, this is quite well done, with Ventimiglia channeling his inner Nicolas Cage, Whelan delivering a competent performance, and Carmichael attaining at least 7 or 8 deciFannings in the screaming-child department. The ending—Ellie is recovered but brings with her another box, this time for Laura, the target being Ian—manages to provide some sense of conclusion while at the same time setting things up for the planned sequel.
Chosen was created for and released through Crackle, a division of Sony whose specialty is ad-supported online streaming video. Although this is technically a serial/series, all of the episodes were released simultaneously (January 17 2013) so that viewers could watch them consecutively; it therefore seems to make sense to treat the piece as a single movie that suffers irritatingly frequent interruptions.
On Amazon.com: Chosen
MUCH LATER ADDITION: A second series did indeed turn up. You can see my take on it here.
If you like this sort of stuff, you can find the Film Noir encyclopedia here: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: The Essential Reference Guide