The Condemned Review
By Shawn McKenzie 05/28/2007
Reality show TV producer Ian Breckel (Robert Mammone) has come with the ultimate idea for a show that will possibly garner the average Super Bowl’s 40 million viewer ratings: find ten death row convicts from third world prisons around the world and force them to compete to the death on a remote island off the country of Papua New Guinea. They would be outfitted with an explosive ankle device that would prevent them from escaping, and after 30 hours of competing, the last man (or woman) standing would get freedom and financial compensation. Since there are FCC rules that prevent this kind of broadcast (and the fact that no network would touch the project), he decides to broadcast the event on the Internet and charge viewers $49.95 to watch it. He has assembled a staff to help with the show. Goldman (Rick Hoffman), a.k.a. “Goldie,” is the director; Bella (Samantha Healy) is doing the musical score; Eddie (Christopher Baker) is the Webmaster; and Baxter (Luke Pegler) is Breckel’s right-hand man who handles the prisoners. Breckel’s girlfriend/co-producer Julie (Victoria Mussett) is supportive, but is a little leery of the idea. The prisoners come from all sorts of backgrounds. They are husband-and-wife Paco (Manu Bennett) and Rosa Pacheco (Dazi Ruz); drug trafficker Kreston “K.C.” Mackie (Marcus Johnson); man-hating killer Yasantwa “Rio” Adei (Emelia Burns); 6’10” 340 pound Petr “The Russian” Raudsep (Nathan Jones); the deadly Japanese assassin Go Saiga (Masa Yamaguchi); ex-British forces agent Ewan McStarley (Vinnie Jones); nightclub bomber Dominic “The Italian” Giangrasso (Rai Fazio); and Nazi Helmut “The German” Bruggerman (Andy McPhee.) When the tenth contestant, an Arabian prisoner (Domenic Brancatisano) Breckel bought, is killed by the police, he replaces him with Jack Conrad (“Stone Cold” Steve Austin)…an American special ops agent who was locked up in El Salvador for killing several people in an explosion. The American government essentially left him there to rot…which meant that he wasn’t able to contact his single mom girlfriend back home, Sarah Cavanaugh (Madeleine West), and her two boys, Michael (Trent Sullivan) and Scotty (Joey Massey.) Eventually FBI Special Agent Brett Wilkins (Sullivan Stapleton) gets word of the broadcast and does his own investigation as to where the island is located. With time running out, Jack has to survive long enough to get home and be with his family again.
The Condemned is the fifth theatrical movie produced by World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE) Films, the movie studio created to make movies starring their wrestlers. Most critics have hated almost all of them, and most of them have lost money at the theater. They have recouped profits on DVD later, so WWE Films plans to release future films direct-to-DVD. I think that’s too bad…because not all of them have been that bad. This movie is one of the better films.
The first WWE Film was 2003’s The Rundown starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The movie made $47.5 million…but it cost $85 million to make. They followed it up with the 2004 remake of 1973’s Walking Tall, again starring The Rock. That made $45.9 million…but it cost $56 million to make. Their third movie was last year’s See No Evil, a horror movie starring Glen Jacobs, a.k.a. Kane. That movie only made $15 million…but it only cost $8 million to make…so it at least made a profit. Finally, they made last October’s The Marine, starring John Cena. That movie made $18.8 million and it cost only $15 million…so it was another minor hit.
This movie was unfortunately in the box office disappointment category. It’s too bad, because it’s my second favorite WWE film behind The Rundown.
Why did I like it when virtually everyone else (including, apparently, movie-going audiences) hated it? Despite the shaky camera work and its hypocritical “message” at the end by TV reporter Donna Sereno (played by Angie Milliken), the movie is just cool action. Yes…it is essentially a rip-off of 1987’s The Running Man or 2001’s Series 7: The Contenders, but I didn’t care.
There is just something so cool about Austin though. I haven’t seen an action star with such a cool presence since…well…The Rock (okay…maybe since The Transporter’s Jason Statham…but let’s not quibble…okay?) I’m not going to say that he is the best actor in the world…but neither is Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I’ve liked almost all of his movies.
The main villain may be Mammone’s character, but the real evil guy here was Vinnie Jones. The man can play a very good bad guy…a bad guy you really want to see get his comeuppance.
Ironically…I hate watching professional wrestling. I just can’t deny that I enjoy watching action films by wrestlers though (except for Evil and Marine…or anything made pre-WWE Films, like 1989’s No Holds Barred, starring Terry “Hulk” Hogan.) I did enjoy The Condemned for its graphically violent action and the “acting” of the one and only Stone Cold. The studio has one more movie on their docket…Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death), starring Paul Michael Levesque, a.k.a. Triple H, slated for release in 2009…and I hope that it gets released theatrically. Direct-to-DVD may be cheaper, but for me, it doesn’t mean the same thing.
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