The Condemned (2007)

Scott Wiper


Steve Austin - Jack Conrad
Vinnie Jones - Ewan McStarley
Rick Hoffman - Goldman
Robert Mammone - Ian Breckel
Tory Mussett - Julie
Madeleine West - Sarah

Year - 2007

Score - 2.5 Howls Outta 4

I remember back in 1992 when MTV debuted THE REAL WORLD. The so-called "first reality show", it was an interesting dynamic to watch seven strangers live in one house and watch drama unfold over politics, racism, and sexuality. It was highly successful and has continued to survive after all these years. Unfortunately, it brought along a whole bunch of reality shows with it. Not to say that they're all bad. It's just that there are so many of them that you wish this "craze" would go away forever.

Has there been a reality show that hasn't been done yet? We got dating shows. We got talent competitions. We got celebrities extending their 15 minutes of fame. Hell, FOX wants to do a show where they put 10 homeless people in a house just to throw them out of it one by one to claim a winner for some stupid competition! What's next? Murder? That's where THE CONDEMNED comes in.

Ian Breckel (Robert Mammone), a powerful and extremely rich television producer decides to bring forth the most violent and action-packed reality show on the World Wide Web called The Condemned. Going worldwide, Breckel and his squad decide to bring together ten of the most dangerous criminals they could find. Each criminal has a death row sentence, so Breckel decides to let them decide their fates on an island in order to make some cash from this exploitation. They have 30 hours to survive with explosive devices strapped to their ankles. The one left standing would receive freedom and a shitload of money.

Amongst the usual action stereotypes [the Asian martial-artist, the violent Brit (Vinnie Jones), the married couple] is Jack Conrad ("Stone Cold" Steve Austin). Conrad is an American fugitive found in a Central American prison with a mysterious past. As Conrad seems dead set on winning this competition to go back to his family, more of who he is becomes known. Once the truth is found out, Breckel realizes that his plan to make money off of The Condemned is gonna be a lot more dangerous than he thought.

I've read so many reviews about this film that have been so negative that I was almost scared off from watching this. I really wasn't expecting much, especially since WWE Films [who produced this film] hasn't had a great track record with their films. SEE NO EVIL was abysmal and THE MARINE was even worse. So I was prepared for the worst. To my surprise, however, I actually enjoyed THE CONDEMNED.

Sure, it bites off BATTLE ROYALE and THE RUNNING MAN. But at least it does it with style - 80s action style. It was like Ronald Reagan was President all over again and his wife Nancy was demanding us to "Say NO To Drugs"! It could have done more with the idea [there was definitely a ton of potential for the film to be better] but it does good with what it has. For one, the fight scenes are pretty brutal. There's some great choreography [by Richard Norton who played Zamir in GYMKATA] and when the punches landed, they landed pretty hard. There was potential for more blood that wasn't there and director Scott Wiper does do more quick cuts during these sequences than a director should. I mean, it was sometimes hard to see what was going on when the film was jumping all over the place. But when it wasn't, it was great to look at. I was definitely into the action.

I also liked the reality show idea. Yes, people are tired of these shows by now. But it's kind of interesting to wonder how people would respond to a reality show like The Condemned. I mean, most of the stuff we see that's "reality" is fabricated. But people are really being killed here. This is like watching a live snuff film right in front of your eyes. Yet, these people in the film were paying $50 a piece to watch this stuff. Would we in the real world succumb to the same kind of thing if this were real? It's an interesting idea that's helped by the fact that even the people behind this show were sickened by what they were seeing. I honestly believe a lot more could have been done with the premise besides the horrible news reporter [played by a horrible actress delivering horrible dialogue] who sadly asks us "Are we the condemned?" I wasn't sure if the people behind this film was insulting the audience by blaming us for reality TV and whatnot. The message wasn't really clear. As a matter of fact, the film didn't even need one. It could have been just a fun film to watch. But having this message in play makes it less so. Not every film needs to be taken seriously. THE CONDEMNED should have been one of them.

I also thought the middle of the film was weak. There was just too much going on, especially with the Jack Conrad character. We learn who he really is, why he was in prison, and how he is pretty much whipped when he calls his wife to tell her that he loves her. I mean, I'm glad the character got fleshed out, but why not do the same for the others in the competition? Makes the film highly predictable and it creates a loss of suspense or tension. We know who's gonna come out on top, so why should we even watch this film? Maybe that's why it didn't do so well in the box office. Character development was truly lacking here for most of the prisoners in the film. Steve Austin, Vinnie Jones, and Robert Mammone were the only people I gave a damn about. Not good.

I did, however, enjoy the fact that many things are not seen but implied. Like the rape scene, which isn't shown visibly at all, but we know it's happening. Scott Wiper creates an uncomfortable atmospheric mood through the camera operators, who are visibly upset about what they're seeing. Because of that implication, we start feeling a bit uncomfortable while this plays out on the screens behind them. And of course, the lack of blood is evident but it's not necessarily a bad thing. People explode. People get shot. Everything seems to be bloody due to camera tricks and great sound.

The acting was actually pretty good. Steve Austin, who was one of my favorite wrestlers during the boom era for the WWF/E during the late 1990s to early 2000s, isn't the greatest actor in the world but the role of Jack Conrad suits him well. Conrad is a tough son of a bitch, which is what many of us associate Austin with. His main job is to kick ass...and that is what he does. It's not Shakespeare, so Austin handles the material well.

Vinnie Jones steals the film for me as the villainous Brit, Ewan McStarley. The man is a smartass vicious killer who takes pleasure in torturing the other competitors before murdering them. And he doesn't gender discriminate either. My kind of villain. Seriously, Jones is so charismatic that I actually was rooting for him. His scenes with Austin are pretty good too and they have great fight sequences. I don't believe there's been a movie with Vinnie Jones that I haven't enjoyed. He's just that good.

The only other actor of note is Robert Mammone, who played the villainous TV producer Ian Breckel. As the film went on, the dude became more despicable by the minute. I seriously wanted the guy to get his ass kicked and eventually killed for being such an evil bastard for manipulating the prisoners and the people who worked with him. I guess in that sense, Mammone did his job. I wonder if this role was based on Vince McMahon? Naahhh...

THE CONDEMNED is a great rental if you're into action films and want to see a pretty good one. If you're a Steve Austin fan, you may even want to buy this one. It has some good direction, good acting, and nice fight scenes. Too bad the film took itself seriously. Could have been a lot more fun than it was. But of the three WWE Films, this is definitely the best choice. And that's the bottom line, 'cuz Fred the Wolf said so!

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