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  Publicity Stills of "The Condemned"
(Courtesy from Shaw)

Director: Scott Wiper
Cast: Steve Austin, Vinnie Jones, Trent Sullivan, Rick Hoffman & Nathan Jones
RunTime: 1 hr 56 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: NC-16 (Some violence and coarse language)
Official Website: www.watchthemdielive.com

Opening Day: 19 July 2007


A select group of death row inmates are offered the opportunity to compete in a deadly game on an abandoned island for one week. The winner of the game will have his or her sentence dropped down to life imprisonment and avoid execution.

Movie Review:

The Condemned is the third in a series of WWE commissioned films, after See No Evil (2006) and The Marine (2006), both of which starred headline WWE wrestlers as main characters. The movie tells of an unscrupulous television producer Ian Breckel (Robert Mammone) whose idea of viewership record breaking programming was a 10-deathrow inmate fight to the death on a tropical island, with the surviving victor granted freedom. The movie is cheesy and tacky and feels like a badly cut, Dolph Lundgren/Jean Claude Van Damme B-grade 90s action flick, while the story itself will irritate you with its utter implausibility. However, it was still awkwardly fun to watch at times for its brutal honestly at recognising WWE’s production shortcomings. What really killed The Condemned, however was its handling of the lead character Jack Conrad, played by former WWE Champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.

In WWE’s previous films, See No Evil played on 6 foot 8 inch-er Glen Jacobs’ in-ring persona of tormented monster Kane in a horror slash flick, while The Marine casted clean-cut fan favourite John Cena as the classic American marine hero. The Condemned features the crass, beer-swilling and trash-talking “Stone Cold” Steve Austin whose best performances in the ring involved the microphone and talking the pants off other less than capable competitors. In fact, if you were to watch the WWE, you would have most likely billed the man as the most entertaining and potentially successful screen actor after The Rock. Yet, the WWE has taken the route of casting him as a silent, macho alpha male who speaks little more than awkward one-liners and curt replies amidst countless face shots of a brooding, troubled man. What could have been an entertaining vehicle carried by one of the most charismatic anti-heroes in professional wrestling turned out a lukewarm and disappointing affair,

The movie piles on the violence but surprisingly, and maybe credibly, avoids gore and nudity. For all of WWE’s late 90s and early millennium controversies of a trashy, American junk culture product, The Condemned takes a saccharine, preachy tone. The characters on the island are strapped with an explosive, activated by a pull-tab a la Tamagotchi/electronic calendar clutter. Throughout the movie you’ll witness brawls and fights and even male participants attempting to violate and rape the females. However, all explosions are unashamedly fake, panned out shots of fireballs, while no nudity or graphic depiction of sexual scenes takes place. The movie even throws in morality, as it literally condemns reality TV and the current trend of exploitation that takes place in TV programming. For it to come from the WWE, however, leaves a bitter and possibly hypocritical taste in the mouth.

Sadly, these are the factors that turn The Condemned into an out and out B-grade action film, the kind that will only make it to obscure cinemas in Chinatown if not for WWE and Lionsgate film having the financial muscle to push the film. WWE fans will be disappointed by Stone Cold’s lack of screen interaction with the audience, while mainstream audiences will be isolated by its guns and gory content. I’m not too sure who WWE are targeting, but ironically, perhaps it is subtle exploitation at its best: grab popcorn, soft drinks and soak in the new cinema culture of transient, cookie-cutter film making and The Condemned turns out surprisingly fun in a so bad its good way. Perhaps on a Friday evening, after a long week of work.

Movie Rating:

(Don’t be too hasty to condemn it, there’s a nice feel good factor at the end of it all)

Review by Daniel Lim


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