The manly man's movie of the year is here. The Condemned makes Con Air look like Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. It's The Running Man meets Survivor in the internet age.
Movie Review: The Condemned
Reality TV producer Ian Breckel (Robert Mammone) brings 10 death row convicts to an island to fight to the death on a live webcam show. They include Jack Conrad (Steve Austin), with an unknown past so you know he's going to turn out to be a hero, and Ewan McStarley (Vinnie Jones), who's so crazy he's obviously going to be the big bad. But it's not all fighting. The crew begin to debate the extent to which they are responsible for events they are broadcasting, and the FBI gets involved trying to locate the mysterious island.
The plot is tightly constructed. They explain just how they recruit their contestants and how they force these men to go along with the plan. They're wearing an ankle bracelet that will explode at the end of 30 hours, so if they don't fight to the death, they're dead anyway. And they set up the moral issue right away with a reporter interviewing Breckel.
The diverse group of men put on a good show. They deal with language barriers, obtaining food and weapons and different fighting styles and strategic alliances.
The fighting is more hard hits though they throw in a slam or a suplex to appease the fans. They play the ankle bracelet too much. More than half the kills are by explosion. Come on, we'd like to see a few actual kill shots.
Audiences will cheer as the bad guys really deserve to get pounded. They're blatantly rapists, child killers and perhaps the most despicable group of scum since the bad guys in The Crow.
The first time a man hits a woman, you feel kind of safe because you know she's just going to kick his ass. But then they follow that up with true misogyny. They couch it in a division amongst the ranks of producers, showing how this is too much for even some of them. But it's still exploiting the lengthy beating of an overpowered woman. Interestingly, she is a vicious criminal yet the film makes us sympathize. Yet no character ever uses the R word. They get choked up before it comes out, so the film never really has to address it head on.
The moral statement is suspect. The whole film revels in the sleaze of its gratuitous violence, its blatantly exploitative premise (pure excuse for fighting) and Breckel's outrageous worldview, praying on the anti-American sentiment in his quest for demographics. Even the opposers keep watching the show. Ultimately, why would Vince McMahon really condemn violence? It's his stock in trade. Rick Hoffman is really good at playing the issue as the wavering director though, and at least the exploitation is glorious.
The supporting cast sells the most ridiculous aspects of the film. You really believe that Jack's ex cares about his survival, even though we're talking about a woman who just discovered that her disappeared boyfriend is fighting for his life on the internet.
They start talking too much towards the end. Too many backstories, not everybody needs to be fully developed. Some are just fodder. Still, at least it's the best WWE movie yet.