In The Condemned, wrestler Steve Austin is one of several clumsy death row inmates who spend their free time taking ballet lessons.
Only a few months after World Wide Entertainment gave pro wrestlers Kane and John Cena a chance at showing off their fighting skills in See No Evil and The Marine, comes Steve Austin's turn to deliver his best holds and throws on the big screen. In The Condemned, Austin plays one of ten death row inmates – somewhere in Central America – who get a shot at freedom if they participate in a deadly game on a remote island. The rules are fairly simple: the contestants are wired with explosives and must battle each other to death; the last man standing wins.
The concept of the game was developed by a ruthless millionaire (Robert Mammone) who, after being turned down by all major TV networks, decides to broadcast the spectacle live on the web. His goal is to top the Super Bowl and attract more than 40 million subscribers.
Undoubtedly the worst of the films thus far released by World Wide Entertainment, The Condemned borrows most of its ideas from Kinji Fukasaku's smash hit Battle Royale, a bloody thriller in which a group of Japanese ninth-graders selected by the government are given three days to kill each other on an island. But whereas the original delivers an ingenious message – set at a time when civilization is falling to pieces – The Condemned commits an inexcusable crime: Hypocritically, it denounces violence while glorifying it.
For instance, director-writer Scott Wiper and co-screenwriter Rob Hedden wallow in brutal scenes of rape and torture that are excruciating to watch. One horrific moment toward the end of the movie involves one of the players executing about a dozen TV crew members – for the sole purpose of provoking audience revulsion.
The plot is primitive and predictable. In fact, a close look at the movie's official poster makes it easy to guess who will walk out of the game alive. The fast-paced action and edgy editing are so repetitive they add virtually nothing to the proceedings. Since fighting each other to death does not require any acting skills, The Condemned has no actors.
In sum, The Condemned is a perfect example of inept filmmaking even if it ultimately delivers a commendable message: Wrestling should stay inside the ring.
© Franck Tabouring
The Condemned (2007). Dir.: Scott Wiper. Scr.: Scott Wiper and Rob Hedden, from a story by Wiper, Hedden, and Andy Hedden. Cast: Steve Austin, Vinnie Jones, Rick Hoffman, Robert Mammone.