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Steve Austin……….Jack Conrad
Vinnie Jones……….Ewan McStarley
Robert Mammone……….Ian Breckel
Marcus Johnson……….K.C. Mack
Nathan Jones……….The Russian
Rai Fazio……….La Bouche
The Condemned is the kind of action movie that would come out every week if Reagan were still president. That is to say The Condemned is an over the top action film with an invincible hero facing the most impossible and preposterous odds, complete with the same predictable results. In one film WWE’s “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is able to attain the action hero status that has eluded Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson thus far.
While The Rock tries his hand in more plot driven action movies and different genres altogether, The Condemned makes Austin look like the true heir apparent to Schwarzenegger and Stallone. It appears WWE Films has finally found a fitting vehicle for one of its performers. Despite its poor image in mainstream media, the storytelling and characters in WWE should have already made a better transition to the big screen.
The Condemned is simplistic but effective. Robert Mammome (Ian Breckel) is a millionaire with a visionary, yet diabolical, plan to air the most intense reality show since The Running Man. He drops ten people on an island and informs them that they will have a battle royal to the death. The winner gets his freedom.
The grand finale shouldn’t surprise anyone, but interest is built in the hows and whys of the matter. It seems Jack Conrad (Austin) is not exactly who Mammome thought he was, and he is altering Mammome’s intended outcome. Mammome shows more than just a passing interest in Ewan McStarley (Vinnie Jones), the most flamboyant killer, winning the game.
If everything sounds a bit familiar, it’s because Austin has been playing that character in the WWE since 1998. Mammome is plugged into the Vince McMahon role, and Jones would be The Rock if The Rock were a British psychopath. These parallels to an old wrestling storyline will feel familiar to wrestling fans, albeit the evil man in charge with an equally evil flunky isn’t exactly a new idea either.
The Condemned is a throwback to simpler times when a hero being American was enough to cheer for. The consequences of a kill or be killed attitude are more prevalent now. The Condemned hopes that audiences will cheer Austin because the killing he does is more “honorable.” That concept is a bit dubious when watching the film, especially when the FBI and Conrad’s friends abhor what is happening, but subscribe to watch it anyway.
It is comical to be chastised by a film that celebrates such violence, as well as more unsavory acts. Certainly such a dialogue should be had in this country since we do not seem that far off from someone trying their hand at actually holding this kind of competition. But when is a good time for that dialogue to take place? Using the dialogue as a plot point in The Condemned‘s is not the answer.
Like wrestling, The Condemned is so over the top that it cannot be taken too seriously. The film is great fun when it embraces what it is, but things get muddled whenever the film dwells on the overbearing (and out of place) pathos of certain characters. Apart from that Steve Austin’s wrestling is and has always been, someone people can rally behind no matter what his motives are, the film is hard to get into. The Condemned makes an effort to flesh out its characters, but it draws attention to the fact that they are purposely unlikable. In the 80s it was enough that the bad guys got theirs, no attention needed to be drawn to how much they deserved it.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):