Steve Austin as Jack Conrad
Vinnie Jones as Ewan McStarley
Rick Hoffman as Goldman
Robert Mammone as Ian Breckel
Tory Mussett as Julie
Christopher Baker as Eddie
Sam Healy as Bella
Madeleine West as Sarah
Luke Pegler as Baxter
Masa Yamaguchi as Saiga
Emelia Burns as Rio
Manu Bennett as Paco
Dasi Ruz as Rosa
Marcus Johnson as K.C. Mack
Nathan Jones as The Russian
Directed by Scott Wiper
(Note: Every once in a while, a movie comes along that's so bad that it's hard to endure more than 15 or 20 minutes at a time. "The Condemned" is just that sort of movie, so hopefully, those reading this review can appreciate the critic's tenacity for making it through this entire movie in order to provide a proper review.)
Even with its ridiculously simple premise, "The Condemned" manages to pull off one of the most laughably bad movies of the year. The only thing that should be condemned is whomever thought a movie like this could turn out any better than it actually did.
Ten convicted killers on death row are gathered on a deserted island by a sleazy TV producer (Robert Mammone) with the directive being to fight to the death in order to gain their freedom, the entire event being shown on the internet to anyone willing to pay to watch it. One of the contestants, Jack Conrad (Steve Austin), is a military man falsely accused and imprisoned in a Central American prison, who uses the opportunity to get justice and revenge.
Imagine if you will being WWE Chairman Vince McMahon and having to find things for your wrestlers to do after their days in the ring are over. Considering that "Stone Cold" Steve Austin paved the way for professional wrestling as it is today, you would think McMahon could find a better vehicle for his former star than this poor man's combination of "Survivor" and "Ten Little Indians" that kowtows to wrestling fans' desire for blood and violence without fully appeasing either. Instead, this "looks better on paper" movie may very well be one of the dullest and worst conceived movies made this year.
Before we can even get to any semblance of action, we're introduced to the various contestants as they terrorize their respective prisons and prisoners—"The Russian" played by Nathan Jones is apparently one of the deadliest--and former television producer Ian Breckel tells anyone who'll listen why he thinks pitting all these killers against each other on a remote island would draw even more people to his pay-per-view website than to the Super Bowl. His crew, including Rick Hoffman as the show's director, are all on board with the plan, since what could be the harm if most of the contestants are fated to die anyway, right?
Considering the high concept premise, one would expect that more could be done with it, but it's not particularly thrilling or exciting to watch one fight sequence after another, disrupted by an incessant need to cut back to the control room where various on-lookers react and comment on the action. It's almost as if the filmmakers felt that its audience needs to be told what to think or feel while watching the fights, but instead, it just takes away from the action. With so many deadly killers on the loose trying to kill for their freedom, one would expect a lot bloodier violence, but the kills are relatively tame, usually consisting of one contestant activating the exploding ankle bracelet on another and BOOM!! But no, the explosions don't even include body parts and entrails flying in all directions, rather being fairly innocuous explosions cut into the scene in post-production. Of course, none of these killers prove much of a challenge for Austin, as he quickly polishes off Nathan Jones without dripping a bead of sweat.
Austin certainly has a strong screen presence but it's not like "The Condemned" requires much heavy lifting, as he throws punches, wrestling moves and token quips at his opponents no better or worse than Steven Seagal or Jean-Claude Van Damme might have done. Knowing Conrad's back story and cutting back to his ex-wife and friends back in Texas doesn't do much to make him more than a one-note stereotype. Austin certainly isn't the worst actor in the movie—that honor would be shared by the rest of the cast made up mainly of B-movie cattle call types from central casting—but you know you're in trouble when Vinnie Jones is the most experienced actor in a movie. The acting is so bad from some of the others that one wonders if they gave the producers money to allow them to be in their movie.
Otherwise, the entire movie is just a repulsive display of caveman-mentality filmmaking for the lowest common denominator. Women are merely eye candy to be abused by men, while the movie is full of the type of ethnic stereotypes that works so well in the world of wrestling, my favorite one being the Mexican husband and wife with the imaginative names of Paco and Rosa (must have taken them a long time to come up with those ones). One almost sighs with relief when they "lose their Arab" before the game even begins, because one can only imagine what that might have entailed. To add to the indignity faced by the names given the Mexican couple, they're also used as fodder to build up Vinnie Jones' role as the unrepentant bad guy, as he rapes and kills the woman using the skills he learned as a soldier of fortune, while her incapacitated husband seemingly has enough energy to escape without making even a token effort to save her. Thankfully, we're not actually shown Jones' questionable actions, though we do cut back to the control room for the women to show their outrage. Apparently, even putting ten killers on an island in a fight to death has lines that shouldn't be crossed, and it takes this particular act for the producers' crew to start realizing it. Then again, this scene does allow for one of the funniest piss-in-your-pants-laughing lines in the movie, as the producers justifies Jones' actions with the nugget: "But she was a killer… and a whore!"
Yes, kids, on top of everything else, the writing and dialogue are so bad that Uwe Boll might get worried about having his thunder as the worst director on the planet stolen by Scott Wiper. The movie just looks awful, a technical disaster that's poorly shot with camera angles that seem to have been thought up on the fly and production values that make it look like the entire budget was spent on a money shot helicopter crash late in the movie. This may be the first time I've ever watched a movie thinking that I could have made a better movie given the same premise and cast.
Other than that, the movie proceeds in the most predictable fashion with few surprises as it leads up to the final face-off between Austin and Jones as the entire world watches--the fight is cut together with reactions from everyone watching just to remind us--but anyone who can't figure out that Austin's character will get his revenge on Jones, the producer and everyone involved in this despicable bit of internet commerce probably hasn't seen enough action movies or wrestling matches.
The Bottom Line:
Destined to be one of this year's first true Razzie frontrunners, "The Condemned" screams straight-to-video, and it would never have gotten a theatrical release if not for the power of McMahon and WWE. Austin isn't the worst part of the equation, but he seems oblivious to the fact that he's in a god-awful movie that fails to entertain despite many undeliberate laughs. On the other hand, Vince McMahon should have known better and after this disaster, he may want to get out of the movie business before he does any serious damage.