When a movie features superstar wrestlers in leading roles, usually it's a glaring signal to drop everything and run from the multiplex. The Condemned is an exception to that rule; it has more merit than all of the previous WWE films combined... but when we're talking about The Scorpion King and See No Evil
, that's not saying much."Stone Cold" Steve Austin
stars as Jack Conrad, an American on death row for murder in El Salvador. Without notice, he's flown to Papua New Guinea and dropped on a remote island along with nine other condemned prisoners. They're each wearing an explosive device on their ankles. If they tamper with it or pull the attached red tab, it will explode. Article continues below
Why are 10 prisoners dropped on this island and strapped with explosives? Because it makes for good television! Millionaire producer Ian Breckel (Robert Mammone
) has come up with an idea for reality TV. He's rigged the island with hundreds of cameras and camouflaged camera crews, and instructs the prisoners to kill each other. The prisoner alive after 30 hours will be released. If there's more than one alive... all of them will explode. All this is airing -- live -- on the internet. It's like Survivor... with a lot more blood.
Much has been said about the film's hypocritical social statement. The Condemned scolds viewers for their obscene obsession with violence, yet has no problem with drawing audiences into theaters with taglines like "Ten people will fight. One person will live. You get to watch!" And why would WWE promoter and executive producer Vince McMahon want to protest violence? Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.
Despite his sub-par thespian skills, Steve Austin fits the bill. His facial expressions are monotonous, eyes are inexpressive, and dialogue delivery hilariously deadpan... but these qualities totally work with his character. On screen, Austin is powerful and intimidating. Not in an Anthony-Hopkins
-in-The-Silence-of-the-Lambs kind of way, but rather, in an I-hope-to-God-I-never-run-into-this-guy-in-a-dark-alley way, and that's exactly what this role needs. He isn't a good actor, but Austin is perfect for the part.
Ex-pro soccer player Vinnie Jones
co-stars as an ex-British forces agent who has also found himself on death row; he's Jack's biggest competition on the island. Surprisingly, Jones has a knack for acting. His eyes are intense and menacing... he's a force to be reckoned with. These guys put The Rock
Even with an engaging concept and decent enough performances, The Condemned doesn't quite work. Screenwriters Scott Wiper and Rob Hedden try too hard to make the film more than a shameless action flick. Halfway through, their script loses its edge when they direct our attention to subplots, supporting characters, and backstories that go absolutely nowhere. Guys, if you're going to make a movie like this... do it right. Don't complicate things. Keep it simple, bloody, and stupid.