Wednesday, 18 February 2009
Title: The Condemned
Director: Scott Wiper
Staring: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Vinnie Jones, Robert Mammone, Madeleine West and Rick Hoffman
Rating: 2 / 5
Plot: Jack Conrad (Austin) is a convict awaiting execution in a Salvadoran prison. "Purchased" by a wealthy television producer and transported to a deserted island in the South Pacific along with nine other condemned criminals (similarly purchased from prisons around the world), they are "offered" the opportunity to avoid capital punishment and win back their freedom by fighting to the death in an illegal game to be filmed and broadcast live over the Internet.
Review: Since the release of “Battle Royale” it’s been followed by a whole host of assorted clones, each giving their own spin to the death match setup and since it’s release it’s also been hard not draw comparisons between that film and any other film, which bares even the slightest of similarities. Sadly the condemned fails to bring anything new to the table and instead gives us nothing but a below par action flick and a vehicle for one of the biggest and certainly most popular of WWE names “Stone Cold Steve Austin”.
The third film to be released by “WWE Films” following the enjoyable horror romp “See No Evil” (With Kane taking on monster duties) and the daft popcorn action flick, as well as direct to DVD feature “The Marine” (with John Cena & which already has a sequel in the works at the time of writing), The Condemned much like “The Marine” has a simple enough setup though one which sadly never lives up to its full potential, as our group of convicts, who the majority of which we never discover their reasons for their imprisonment are dropped off (literally in this case as they are thrown from the helicopter carrying them) on the island to hunt and kill each other off, with the story from this point quickly dissolving into what amounts to mainly filler between fight scenes, as we watch members of the production crew have doubts about the program, while arguing about how moral it is to have people fighting each other to the death in the name of entertainment??? Surely they should have thought about these kinds of things earlier you can’t help but wonder really. As well as this we get some lazy character development for Jack, revolving around his girlfriend watching the show in a bar and two FBI agents who are trying to locate the island, yet failing at the same time to achieve anything outside of having a stupidly large amount of meetings, to the point that I’m sure they are challenging “Star Trek – The Next Generation” for the title of the most pointless amount of meetings ever.
The fights sequences which after all are main selling point of the film, however frustratingly are often hard to follow thanks to the shaky close up way in which they are filmed with only a couple of fights escaping this style of shooting, which is even more of a shame when one of those fights isn’t the confrontation between Jack and “The Russian” (Played by big hulking guy for hire Nathan Jones) seeing how Nathan Jones has shown on several occasions in films such as “Warrior King” and “Fearless” that he can put on a decent fight scene, which would make it all the more exciting when you remember that Austin is after all a professional wrestler and more than capable of faking a fight sequence, but this is again ruined by the bizarre fighting style which they lumber Austin with, which see’s him fighting more like a boxer than his usual brawler style, which director Scott Wiper is quick to comment on in the special features on the disc, attributing this style to the fact his character is ex special forces, while meanwhile the groans of Stone Cold fans can be heard throughout the land.
The next real gripe with the condemned is Vinnie Jones, whose performance is nothing new and further adds to the opinion that like Danny Dyer, the only thing which changes with each of his roles is the scenery, with him once again in sweary yobbo mob mode, which might have worked the first couple of times the audience is exposed to it, but the more often I see him recycling the same style the more tiresome it becomes, much like when ever a character is ex military and British, they have to be Ex SAS, which surprise surprise is exactly what the character of Ewan McStarley is. Seriously why even have him as ex military, why not just make him a Mercenary or a killer or something alittle more original than just the Brit version of Austin’s character! As for the rest of the assembled convicts we are left to draw our own conclusions, as to who they are and what they did, with the few bits we are told being patchy at best, as they are pushed to the background, further adding to the opinion that their sole purpose is to add to the body count.
Looking at the Condemned now that I have bared witness to the hasty battle royale knock off it is, I am less than surprised that this film almost bankrupted WWE films and is a disappointing stumble, after two perfectly expectable films and makes me hope that future titles will keep Austin off the screen and in the ring were he works best, or at least give us the Stone Cold we all love and adore, rather than some hindered knockoff were as the less that we see of Vinnie Jones in this genre the better really.
On a final note this film was almost as painful to write about as to sit through and at various points I considered giving up on it, but that would have then meaning finding another film to watch in it's place and true this kind of movie is what I expected to find when I choose to hunt out bad movies, but The Condemned sadly enough fails on far to many labels to even be redeemable enough to recommend even to WWE fans.