Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Condemned (2007)

Starring Steve Austin, Vinnie Jones, Robert Mammone, Rick Hoffman, et al
Rated R, 100 minutes

Living in Michigan, I had the pleasure to go all-out and celebrate Wrestle Mania’s trip into town with a weekend full of wrestling events. The first official one was the premiere of this movie at the FOX Theater in Detroit, with many WWE superstars on hand and even “The Condemned’s” lead, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. It was weird to watch a movie and essentially have a wrestling crowd on hand, reacting like a raucous studio audience with every action and line.

The plot is as such. Ian Breckel (Mammone) is trying to produce an internet-exclusive show where people subscribe to watch ten death row inmates fight to the death on a remote island. The last one left standing gets freed. When trying to wrangle up another stereotype for the program, he discovers an American, Jack Conrad (Austin), and immediately casts him. The ten convicts (which include among them, one woman) are thrown from a helicopter on the island with a charge of explosives on their ankle. 10 seconds after its tab is pulled, enough explosive to destroy a small home goes off. Also, the thing goes off after 30 hours pass, so they need to act quick and be the last man standing.

Like an obvious wrestling gimmick, it’s easy to anticipate and cheer for the ankle explosive, and get into the “heels” and “faces” of the movie. Despite being a WWE Films project promoted solely around Austin, he’s not a major factor until the movie really gets going. Before that point, there are tense battle scenes between convicts struggling to off each other, debates of morality between Breckel and his crew, scenes of Jack’s family back at home, all of that.

I came in expecting a hunky-dory “easy” film produced for young wrestling fans to follow, but instead got this very grisly one. There were two scenes of female violence and rape, lots of blunt swearing, vicious fighting and killing. It’s a heck of a ride, and a pretty decent evening. Not a masterpiece, sure, but deserving of a rep better than a “WWE Film” probably gets in most circles.


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