The Condemned Review
World Wrestling Entertainment, or Federation as it was once known, found a way to be the launchpad for Hulk Hogan and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson into movies, but few others have enjoyed any success out of the staged sport arena. Normally limited to small roles in action films where a large muscular man is required, that hasn’t stopped the ‘actors’ from trying. In the WWE-backed The Condemned, the amusingly-named crowd favourite ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin goes toe-to-toe with another unlikely film star, the ex-footballer Vinnie Jones. It’s a combination of The Running Man and Battle Royale as a group of death row prisoners are flown to an island and pitted against each other in a fight for survival while eager Internet viewers watch the bloody results.
Austin is Jack Conrad, former SAS and special forces soldier who finds himself purchased by wealthy television producer Ian Breckel (Mammone) to take part in an illegal game show to be broadcast over the Internet. Breckel reasons putting men already condemned to death in a battle against each other is a fair deal as one will win their freedom back. Standing in the way of Conrad and life on the outside without the grim reaper over his head are nine other violent ‘contestants’ including the vicious McStarley (Jones) who will stop at nothing to be the last man standing. However, Conrad wants out of the game and tries to find a way to escape his new hell on Earth. But when things turn nasty and the sole female involved is threatened, he is forced to utilise his killing skills. Meanwhile, the FBI are on the hunt for Breckel as he deliberately sets out to make his show the goriest live viewing that can be found on the Internet.
To their credit, the WWE backers know what their fans will be looking for: ‘Stone Cold’ laying the ‘beatdown’ to as many contestants as he can get face-to-face with. He manfully gets on with the task, although wrestling moves outside a ring generally consist of a few punches and kicks that require very little skill to execute. While Austin is probably trying to escape the ring, Vinnie Jones seems to be auditioning to be a new wrestling superstar. Snarling, swearing and looking meaner than he ever did when defending for Wimbledon, his performance makes an ideal fit for the WWE pantomime as a renegade footballer called The Chopper. Jones makes for a great comic book villain, and puts to shame Austin’s performance which is as wooden on screen as it is in the ring.
Writer/director Scott Wiper has borrowed heavily from Battle Royale and The Running Man, without adding anything to either. He does fill the lack of depth with an abundance of action, especially as McStarley gets his hands on everything from arrows and knives to explosives and guns, but a message about the potential immorality of video streaming over the Internet is buried under the dubious sight of people cheering on Austin as though he was the England football team in the World Cup final. The Condemned is a lot like WWE WrestleMania, only set in the jungle with gore set to 10: there’s a lot of pre-determined carnage but very little thought behind it.
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