Am I the only one slightly disturbed that World Wrestling Entertainment is now in the movie business? Granted, they put on a great show for wrestling fans and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has turned into a pretty big star on his own, but that doesn’t mean Kane or John Cena are guaranteed the same success. Heck, it never completely worked for Hulk Hogan. Did you ever see Mr. Nanny? However, I must admit, the possibilities of WWE producing bigger Hollywood productions could be amazing. Imagine giving actors their own wrestling names and having them duke it out for the top spot at the box office each week. Imagine it. One week you’d have Kathy “Titanic” Bates and Ben “Studio Killer” Affleck, taking on Jim “Over Actor” Carrey and Brad “The Adopter” Pitt in a Hell in the Cell match for box office glory. It would be awesome!
The Condemned stars "Stone Cold" Steve Austin as Jack Conrad, a death row prisoner in a corrupt Central America prison. He is serving time for reasons unbeknown to everyone, and the prison guards are trying everything to get information from him. That is before he is discovered and “purchased” by television producer Ian Breckel (Robert Mammone) for an illegal reality game show taking place on a deserted island, and being broadcast around the world via the Internet.
Conrad, who we find out is a retired military veteran and special forces killer, is pitted against nine other condemned killers from around the world, including The Russian (Nathan Jones), Paco (Manu Bennett) and his wife, Rosa (Dasi Ruz), K.C. Mack (Marcus Johnson), and Ewan McStarley (Vinnie Jones), a former member of British special forces and serial rapist. All 10 convicts have bombs strapped around their ankles, and the only way they can be removed is to have someone pull a red strip, which detonates the bomb 10 seconds later, or be the last man standing after 30 hours. If they’re the last death row inmate standing at the very end, not only do they get prize money, but they get their freedom and a new life.
Austin is not a bad leading man for an action film. In fact, he deserves a better vehicle than this unoriginal movie that resembles The Running Man. He’s a big, strong bad ass from Texas, with punches as lethal as his stare. He has the look, the humor, and the rough and tough voice and attitude, but he needs to be supported by a better cast and a better script. He is an intimidating force, yet the most menacing person the filmmakers could find to square off against him is Jones, a former soccer player who seems to be somewhat psychotic, but not necessarily intimidating. The rest of the cast is pretty insignificant by Austin’s presence, even though some of the characters are twice his size and ten times as mean.
Director Scott Wiper actually shows some style and finesse behind the camera, but he overuses certain types of shots, and his fights scenes are choppy and not all that fun to watch. Heck, it isn't even fun to watch people explode into big gray clouds of smoke. Even though Wiper and Austin have some talent, that does not make up for the terrible, predictable script filled with hypocrisy and cheesy lines. Trying to find a coherent story in The Condemned is like trying to find meaning in a Mentos commercial. Why did that clown come out of that bus filled with nuns holding six bowling pins and a lawn dart? I don’t know, but I’m going to have Mentos. What?
The biggest hypocrisy about The Condemned is that it condemns exactly what it’s selling, and it makes that point over and over again, until you’re nauseas. For instance, the cameraman, Eddie (Rick Hoffman), miraculously rigs every single nook and cranny of the island with cameras to film every bit of action for the web show and is insanely happy about doing so. However, Eddie leaves the production area at least three times while filming the reality show, each time voicing his disgust to Breckel, because the violence is too much for him. He is not the only character to do this. In fact, the entire movie turns out to be about the negative effects of violence and entertainment. But, when these characters get disgusted and reach this moral dilemma, do they leave the island? No, they sit back down and watch more of the illegal snuff film with an incredible soundtrack. I don’t get it. Either shoot a violent action film with no regard for morals or ethics and believe in what you’re selling to the public, or don’t make a movie at all. It’s that simple.
In order to try and enjoy The Condemned, you must go into the movie without any expectations – and I mean none. Do not expect an award-winning script, or anything resembling a plot. Do not expect anything more than choreographed violence, hypocritical viewpoints, and a terrible love story – yes, love story. In other words, go in expecting exactly what you’d see in a WWE telecast: mindless violence performed by several alleged steroid-ridden monsters in tights, the degradation of women, laughable story lines and mediocre acting. If you watch this movie expecting anything other than what is listed above, you should be the one with the bomb strapped around your ankle, for you are stupid.
If you haven’t lost any limbs, and you’re feeling brave, it is time to check out the special features. There are enough features here to make you vomit. It’s disgusting how many features they have for a movie that has a moral dilemma inside a moral dilemma. But, they’re there, so you might as well watch them if you have the stomach.
“The Making of the Condemned” is a five-part (yes, five individual parts), 36-minute documentary on how The Condemned became a reality. You have the option of watching all five parts together, or taking a breath of fresh air in between each chapter since the stench of this crap is enough to suffocate you. Personally, I like part four because they waste more than four minutes showing you where Stone Cold lived during the shoot – on his own personal tour bus. I also love part five, because Wiper says that there is a romance in the film because if you’re going to make a film this violent, “you need to find some heart.” No, you don’t, Scott. By the way, part five is named, “Are We The Condemned?” Seriously, do they really have to ask?
“Captain Carnage Reunion” is actually not all that bad. The feature is about the first time Austin and Jones met in 1998 during a WWE event in England. It has some WWE footage, as well as interviews with Austin and Jones about what it is like to reunite after all these years. “Stone Cold at Movie World” is a useless a feature. It has nothing, and I mean nothing, to do with The Condemned. It is all about Stone Cold going to Australia’s Movie World to promote the WWE. He is not even promoting his own movie … at Movie World. He’s signing autographs and shaking hands.
“Storyboard Sequences” is actually an interesting feature, and would probably be better if I didn’t feel like I was being beaten by a death row inmate while watching the movie. It uses a split screen to show the action of the film and the animated storyboards the filmmakers use when trying to decipher the shots and how they would be cut to look next to one another. With a good movie and a great director these kinds of features are a lot of fun. With Wiper, well, I’d rather be wiping my … kitchen counter with his storyboards. The disc closes with the theatrical trailer of The Condemned, as well as other movies including See No Evil and a series of Jean Claude Van Damme features.
This disc is a huge disappointment - almost as disappointing as the day I found out Vince McMahon was not in that limo that exploded at the end of Monday Night Raw. I wanted to have fun with The Condemned and its features, but I was bored to death. Get it? I said bored to death, because they killed a lot of people in the movie. I kill me.