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5 reviews, 14 user ratings

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Condemned, The
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by Todd LaPlace

"How many professional wrestlers do you think can actually define irony?"
1 stars

I once read this essay written by film critic Manny Farber about a utopian approach to criticism. The point isn’t to simply trash the negative, but extract and celebrate the positives, even when the film is terrible. Applying that method to “The Condemned,” the one thing I can genuinely say is at least it’s not as bad as “See No Evil.” Thus ends the positive portion of this review. Prepare for a trouncing.

Here are three examples of how to avoid making a horrendous mindless action flick. One, do not fill your movie with concepts ripped off from better movies, especially when the entire concept is just a shallow mix of “Saw,” “Series 7: The Contenders” and the Japanese cult smash/former Quentin Tarantino favorite (before he abandoned the Asian flicks for those old Grindhouse ones) “Battle Royale.” Two, do not hire a former professional wrestler and a former professional footballer (that’s soccer player to the Yanks out there), especially when neither has really shown a knack for dramatic acting — and yes, that includes time spent “wrestling” on national television. Three, do not trust a man with co-writing and directing said movie if his short filmography includes an acting stint in “Pearl Harbor” and directing a movie starring Lou Diamond Phillips. Assuming that you’re aware you’re reading a review of WWE Films’ “The Condemned,” I think you can already foresee the thrashing that’s coming shortly, but just for formalities sake, I’ll say it; “The Condemned” does not refer to the 10 prisoners battling to the death on a remote island, but rather to us, because we volunteered to watch this piece of garbage.

Breckel (Robert Mammone) is a millionaire TV producer who’s decided to forgo the middle man in his latest venture and broadcast it straight to the consumers via the Internet. His show pits 10 death row inmates from third world prisons against each other on a South Pacific island where the rule of kill or be killed seems to be the only one. Assuming there’s only one convict left standing after 30 hours (don’t ask me to explain the logic of choosing such an arbitrary number), that person is released with a big wad of cash and a whole slew of new illegal activities to add to his or her rap sheet.

Even though Breckel’s twisted take on morality — he’s not advocating the killing of nine, but rather discovering whose life is worth saving — was done better in “Saw,” and even though the twisted take on televised brutality was done better in “Series 7,” and even though the twisted take on survival of the fittest was done better in “Battle Royale” (also on an island to boot), the concept behind “The Condemned” isn’t without some merit. At least it would have if director/co-writer Scott Wiper and co-writer Rob Hedden hadn’t been such lazy filmmakers. Since all of the major characters can be divided into those in front of the camera and those behind it, we’d clearly assume that the more moral bunch would be those that hadn’t been convicted of a series of heinous crimes, and since this is a movie, we’re also clearly supposed to assume that original assumption will be wrong, which is pretty much true. When Breckel’s girlfriend (Tory Mussett) and best friend (Rick Hoffman) recoil at the extreme violence displayed by the convicts, Breckel immediately starts questioning loyalty, making threats and issuing slaps, simply because they didn’t want to sanction a series of murders anymore and asked Breckel to halt the show. Therefore, convicts like Paco (Manu Bennett) seem noble when he wants nothing more than to see his wife, fellow combatant Rosa (Dasi Ruz), but the problem that Wiper and Hedden didn’t seem to foresee is THESE PEOPLE ARE STILL VICIOUS MURDERERS. How are we supposed to root for the couple to reunite when we know they went on the massive killing spree that landed them on the island in the first place? Without heroes, we’re simply watching people watch people kill each other, which gets surprisingly tedious pretty damn fast.

Clearly the guy we’re supposed to identify with is Jack Conrad (“Stone Cold” Steve Austin), a former army man found in an El Salvadoran prison. He is easily the most reluctant participant, unlike McStarley (Vinnie Jones) whose lengthy rap sheet supports his animal-like lust for brutally offing his competitors. The rest of the Benetton ad combatants are simply there as multicultural scenery, blending into the background until it’s their turn to stage a bland fight to the death. Perhaps it’s because Wiper wanted a more realistic touch, but the fight sequences (the only reason to watch a movie like this) are difficult to watch, both figuratively and literally. The brutality is pretty bad, but luckily there’s almost always something blocking the shots, so we can get a better idea of what the viewers online would be seeing if this were real. I’d say they’re all getting robbed of their $49.95.

What really kills me about the movie, however, isn’t the bad acting or the bad dialogue, the bad cinematography or the bad narrative, but the seeming total lack of awareness on the part of the filmmakers. I’m not sure they actually knew how big a bomb they were making or else they surely would have cut the terribly ironic ending monologue that’s supposed to serve as our moral lesson. Following the broadcast, a supposedly respected journalist gives us a lecture on the sad ethics of watching such terrible violence as a form of entertainment. If you, like producers World Wrestling Entertainment, don’t see how idiotic that is, then this might be a movie you’d enjoy. If you belong to the other 99.999% of humanity, though, this is pretty much the only enjoyment you’re going to get out of this horrific disaster of an action flick.

Next up on the WWE Films docket: “Jornada del muerto,” AKA “Journey of Death,” starring Paul “Triple H” Levesque. It’s a Western about drugs and gangs and, according to the IMDB synopsis, “broken codes of honor,” although the Web site’s message boards say the film’s been cancelled. Gee, I wonder why.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15624&reviewer=401
originally posted: 10/02/07 16:23:19
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell awful sadistic trash 1 stars
9/01/09 Quinby Hello. This site really interesting! I added it to my favourite links. I am from Namibia a 3 stars
5/14/09 bronson Pafukinthetic 1 stars
2/09/09 Peter North nice cans on those 2 broads.....3 boner salute.. 3 stars
1/16/09 Shaun Wallner Intense Action! 5 stars
5/08/08 jake moore BEST movie ive ever seen...EVER 5 stars
4/11/08 Bianca Enjoyed it, your wrong 5 stars
11/15/07 action movie fan good story and action but characters are poorly developed 3 stars
10/23/07 Eric Was fun action movie... austin is great 4 stars
10/19/07 mike critics are too harsh. what did u expect? lots of brutality and action. good stuff! 4 stars
7/02/07 William Goss Prime B-movie premise is botched by subplots and weak attempt at a conscience. 2 stars
4/30/07 sssa rules! This movie great, with hardcore action, comedy, and a great soundtrack 5 stars
4/29/07 Total Crap Only for people who love action and blood and don't care about acting. Austin still rules. 2 stars
4/27/07 KingNeutron What can I say, Austin owned the role. Cringeworthy, but also makes you think. 4 stars
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  27-Apr-2007 (R)
  DVD: 18-Sep-2007

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  DVD: 24-Mar-2008

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  DVD: 04-Jan-2008

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