21st Century Running Man
The best way to describe "The Condemned" is to take 80's action romp "The Running Man" and make it 21st century through the use of the internet and the popular trend for reality voyeurism, plus throw in once popular wrestler 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin to lead the action. Except despite being what should be an entertaining movie "The Condemned" is lacking something, making it feel like a poor excuse for mindless action and violence rather than an exciting, semi intelligent action romp.
When radical TV producer Breckel (Robert Mammone) hits upon an idea to make serious money through the power of the internet, he takes over a small tropical island and plants hidden cameras everywhere. With the stage set he recruits a collection of the worlds most violent criminals, paying for their release from prison and offers them the chance of freedom and a pocket full of money. All they have to do is survive 30 hours on the island where they must fight each other to the death till only one survives. But Breckel gets more that he bargains for in Conrad (Steve Austin) a strong silent American who is more than capable of killing.
When I first saw the trailer for "The Condemned" it came across as not so much a clever action movie but one which manages to combine good action with a modern twist on an old movie that being "The Running Man". But sadly "The Condemned" certainly doesn't live up to expectations, despite them not being that high to start with. The trouble is that whilst the actual idea of having a brutal, fight to the death style reality show broadcast across the internet is a good idea the delivery of it is not and ends up pretty boring. What happens is that after the initial set up "The Condemned" turns into just an action romp where all it is concerned with is the body count. Now I know the action movies of the 80's were the same but movies have progressed since then and doing the same now does not have the same effect as it did back then, it needs to be more exciting.
The other thing and something which is actually quite disturbing is the violence in "The Condemned". Firstly the actual shooting of the violence has obviously been done on a small budget using close ups and quick edits to make it feel more brutal than it is. The trouble is this doesn't work making the movie feel quite cheap. But where I do question the movie is over the unseen violence and a scene surrounding the assumed rape of one of the female criminals. Now I can understand in some ways why this element was included as we have criminals who have been caged up for amongst other things rape, but it actually gives the movie a very uneasy feeling despite the fact that nothing is shown. In fact I would say the movie would have been better if this element had been cut.
As for the performances well "The Condemned" definitely has the feel of yet another movie created to try and establish a WWE wrestler as a movie star, which in this case is 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin. The surprising thing is that Austin doesn't actually do a bad job and although he doesn't have much dialogue, most of which is predictably cheesy, he does look effective in all his action sequences. The fact that his character Conrad is a bit of a man of mystery who we are lead to champion in a Cameron Poe "Con Air" sort of way works well allowing him to look mean and moody for the duration of the movie. It's not a brilliant performance but works well in such a poorly developed movie.
Alongside Austin you have the more familiar face of Vinnie Jones as the nasty McStarley who is not only a violent thug but one with a brain, well sort off. Like Austin, Jones actually doesn't do a bad job of making something out of nothing and manages to create a character which is not so much a violent criminal but a nasty, murderous thug. But with a line of dialogue which can only be said makes a mockery of cockney it is at times laughable.
What this all boils down to is that despite being a good idea for a modern action romp, the actual delivery of "The Condemned" is poor. It tries to recreate the feeling of the 80's action movies and in many ways updates the Schwarzenegger lead "The Running Man" but fails thanks to ignoring the good storyline and concentrating on what turns into mindless violence. "The Condemned" is by no means the worst action movie ever made and Steve Austin is surprisingly enjoyable but overall it lacks the high end finish a modern action movie needs to be really entertaining and exciting.