Jack Conrad is a death row prisoner in a corrupt Central American prison who is "purchased" by a wealthy television producer to take part in an illegal reality game show.
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Convicts fight to the death in reality-TV debacle.
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Jack Conrad: "You know, I don't know who you are, and I don't care. But I don't play games." Ian Breckel: "You don't have to win... but everbody plays." There's something moralistically baffling about a balls-to-the-wall action flick that simultaneously celebrates violence and scolds an audience for celebrating violence... This above sentence refers to The Condemned; a WWE-produced action film helmed by Scott Wiper (A Better Way to Die is another entry to this director's CV). Borrowing heavily from Battle Royale, The Most Dangerous Game and The Running Man, it's apparent that this derivative production won't merit any points for originality. That said, The Condemned is an exploitative and entertaining action film that delivers precisely what any viewer expects: graphic violence, pulse-pounding action, and muscular performers generally beating the absolute crap out of each other. It will never receive any Oscars (or any prestigious awards, for that matter), nor will it be deemed a masterpiece. In addition, this certainly isn't the greatest action flick the industry has to offer (it's a breeding ground for clichs, for instance, and there are too many missteps that prevent it from being anything overly special). However, if you're seeking a straightforward actioner crammed with mindless violence that doesn't pull any punches, then get together a few mates, order pizza, pop open a cold one and enjoy The Condemned. WWE wrestler "Stone Cold" (a.k.a. Steven Austin) plays Jack Conrad; an American with a mysterious past who's incarcerated in an El Salvadorian prison. He's granted a reprieve, however, when ambitious reality television producer Ian Breckel (Mammone) selects him as part of his latest project. Ian acquires ten death row inmates from various global prisons and places them on a remote island. These condemned individuals are allotted thirty hours to fight each other to the death. The sole survivor of the bloodbath will be given freedom and sufficient cash to commence a new life. In essence, Breckel's show is reminiscent of the golden days of the Colosseum when gladiators fought to the death as a form of entertainment. Meanwhile, as the violence unfolds, the camera-infested island broadcasts the legally questionable carnage across the internet. Anyone in the world willing to pay fifty bucks can witness this live snuff film. The Condemned can be easily recommended to action movie connoisseurs. The mayhem is brutal, hard-hitting, entrenched in realism, and (despite a sagging middle act) in abundance. A few interesting action set-pieces make for enjoyable viewing, and the island (photographed in Queensland, Australia) is a great location for the chaos to unfold. Especially during the middle section there's far too much yakking in between the action, and the filmmakers seem to believe the best way to shoot fight scenes is to make them somewhat incomprehensible. The choreography is top-notch (crafted by Australian martial arts legend Richard Norton), but nearly every violent conflict is lensed with shaky, handheld camera...it all appears to be a nauseating blur. We see people pummelling each other, and we occasionally get a sense of who's who, but we usually have to wait for the fight to conclude before we can properly comprehend what actually transpired. The frenetic editing exacerbates this problem by cutting every nanosecond or so. Rectification of this problem was staring the filmmakers in the face: why not utilise the footage Ian Breckel and his team are capturing? Why not show the majority of a battle from the perspective of a paying viewer, watching the carnage from their computer? This'd make the action far more interesting and, honestly, more edifying. Unfortunately, outside of a bar full of Jack Conrad's friends, the film never shows anyone else who paid to watch this internet blood sport. Director Scott Wiper, it seems, isn't quite satisfied with helming a mere exploitation film. The Condemned comes armed with a message: consumers love violence. People like the odious Breckel become rich as long as viewers flock to this stuff in droves. Years ago, this may have been considered provocative; today, however, it's trite, and it disastrously decelerates the pace. Superfluous subplots also emerge in spades, proving very harmful to the pacing. Breckel's underlings constantly bicker as they are confronted with silly attacks of conscience. There's also a love story between Conrad and a girl back home. This exists purely as a foundation on which to build a corny happy ending. Naturally, the FBI also becomes involved. This addition, however, is shallow. The FBI ultimately does nothing useful. It isn't even properly exploited (imagine the possibilities of an FBI raid of Breckel's island...), therefore coming off as unnecessary. Despite the aforementioned criticisms, the film isn't without its upsides. The Condemned remains a fairly enjoyable romp featuring one-liners and action, even if the adrenaline stops pumping for corny chit-chat every so often. Director Wiper has made a commendable creative decision to eschew digital effects and green screen, predominantly employing the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) approach. As a result, the film feels far grittier. A majority of the characters are stock personalities hardly developed past the first dimension. Character development doesn't exist beyond demonstrations of a character's fighting ability. It's extremely gruelling to keep up with who's been dispatched and who's still alive due to the congregation of mainly forgettable characters. The only truly memorable characters are Austin's Jack Conrad and Vinnie Jones' Ewan McStarley. Ultimately, after the other cookie-cutters have been eliminated in predictable ways, it's a duel between these two. Their climactic one-on-one conflict, though, is frequently baffling on account of the camera (which experiences an epileptic seizure any time there's an action sequence). Steven Austin has a terrific screen presence owing to his hulking appearance. There's little doubt he has potential as a hero, but this is an unsuitable vehicle for the actor. Based on the evidence available here it's difficult to ascertain whether or not he's capable of delivering dialogue - aside from a few conversations (during which he's fairly soft-spoken) he doesn't have much to say. Vinnie Jones, as always, is excellent. He's a menacing villain and certainly one of the highlights of this movie. Robert Mammone stars as the selfish reality television producer. He hits all the correct notes and comes across as pretty despicable. Other additions to the cast include Rick Hoffman (remember him from Hostel?), Tory Mussett (appearing under the name of Victoria Mussett), Manu Bennett, Madeleine West, Christopher Baker, Sam Healy, Luke Pegler, Emelia Burns and Dasi Ruz - all providing acceptable support. Most notable, though, is Masa Yamaguchi who seems extremely keen during his fight sequences. Perhaps a re-edited version of The Condemned (removing the tedious and superfluous subplots) would accelerate the pacing and allow for more testosterone-fuelled entertainment. At two hours long, this movie is too lengthy and at times too gruelling. It needed a more concise running time, more action and less exposition. But there's still the problem of the camerawork... For a film produced by WWE, The Condemned is better than expected...but this remains a faint praise. It's not as cheesy as John Cena's The Marine or as preposterous as Kane's See No Evil, but this had the potential to be a better movie. With a more competent director (as well as a superior cinematographer, for that matter) and a considerable trim, The Condemned could have fulfilled its potential. In the end, however, this picture gets enough right, and it's enjoyable without being too taxing.
- PvtCaboose91, Thursday, April 30, 2009
A pretty decent if violent action film with backing from the WWE. The story is pretty good, although it starts to get a bit repetitive as it goes on. Reminded me slightly of the Running Man. Overall a lot better than I expected and Vinnie Jones is good as the bad guy, as always.
- Deano78, Saturday, September 6, 2008
I'll break it down real easy for you: The Running Man meets Battle Royale, with some OUT OF THIS WORLD Michael Bay-esque cinematography! Oh, and of course the big, bald wrestler is Texan! (I died every single time he opened his mouth to spurt out those ridiculously cheesy lines that were given to him!) And really, what was with the completely random moral turn of this movie? Personally, I know I'll be glued to the screen when some brilliant fool decides to produce a show like this!
- cigaretteburns, Sunday, July 13, 2008