Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Condemned (2007)

WWE films presents an unofficial remake of Battle Royale, the great Japanese picture where young, unruly students are taken to an island and forced to kill each other. Each kid is fitted with an electronic collar that will explode if they break a rule or if the game ends with more than one survivor. Play or die. Win or die. The Condemned is like that only they american-ized the shit out of it. Instead of kids, we have death row inmates. So, yeah, they were going to die anyway, but now they have a chance to live. My, what balls these filmmakers have. Also, Robert Mammone (as Breckel, the ill-intentioned producer) is no Beat Takeshi, that's for sure.

Still, I give them credit for actually making a watchable action movie, something that has been few and far between since the late 80s-early 90s. Fuck Arnold and his Last Action Hero. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is Jack Conrad, a CIA operative rotting away in a South American prison when the snarky Breckel purchases his freedom only to bring him to an isolated island to star in his new reality show. Nine other photogenic dead men (and women) walking have their "freedom" purchased as well. The producer is adamant about covering several demographics exclaiming "We need an arab" and "people are going to love to hate this cowboy." Since the game will be airing on the world wide web it figures they would take advantage of the rampant global anit-americanism. They even make up a fake biography for Austin claiming that he "bombed a clinic for the handicapped and mentally retarded".

The condemned includes a married couple (the mexican Bonnie & Clyde), a kung fu master, a burly Russian, an Italian, as well as a former member of British Special Forces (played by the always fun Vinnie Jones), etc. Jones was pretty effective as the villainous McStarley who decides to play the game and actually relishes it. He's reputed to have tortured 17 men and raped 9 women "all in a days work". Don't worry, he only rapes one girl in this picture and then sets off her ankle explosive (Or, perhaps she set it off. This is unclear). Ok, he's deranged. It's hard to blame him though. I mean, that's his nature. The guy was content to rot away on death row until the picture's real villain, asshole producer #1, brought him here. This guy (the producer) is such an asshole that he even charges $49.99 to stream the game online. I guess he couldn't find any advertising for his site. Why the fuck would I fork over fifty bucks to watch a bunch of psychotic meatheads (and women) kill each other when I could watch youporn for free. Ok, people fucking is not really the same as people killing (In my opinion, it's much better). But still, I resent having to pay for shit online. I thought it was amusing when they dropped the condemned on the island. They pushed them out of a helecopter, sans parachutes,and into the water far below. The poor cocky italian accidentaly was impaled on a steel beam. Yet, none of these scenes are included in the $49.99 rate. Fuck that.

For an online show, this is a staggering production. Remote operated cameras were placed all over the island (I can't even imagine the budget for such an endeavor) to catch the action without having to actually be there. Occassionaly, guerrilla camera crews were sent in to film those hard to reach places. I'm sure you can guess what might happen to them. This film depicts a survivor-like game, but only if survivor had been good. Alliances are formed and broken. A few characters (Stone, the mexican couple) aren't interested in playing the game, but, instead, finding a way out of it. If the picture had focused on this action, we might have had something here. Instead, too often, we go back to the states to look in on Stone's girlfriend and the FBI investigation into his whereabouts. See, he was in prison to help the CIA cover up covert operations (i.e. bombing of building). They were content to let him rot, but now here he is...in full view online in front of 28 million viewers (and rising). These sideplots were completely unneccessary and ground the action to a halt. The picture clocks in at 113 minutes, but it should have been 90.

Actually, I liked one scene back in the states where Stone's girlfriend is watching the game in a crowded bar with a bunch of their "friends". I don't know, if I'm ever forced to play this game I would hope my girlfriend would watch alone in a closet or something. Not over beers with a bunch of assholes looking to "console" her. Thankfully, I'd be the guy dropped on the steel beam so my involvement wouldn't last too long.

One element I found interesting (in a comedic sort of way) were the explosive anklets each contestant was forced to wear. If you tried to remove it, it would explode. If you ripped off the plastic tag, it would explode. A couple times, it accidentaly came off during a fight. I guess this gives the little guy a chance against the bigger guy. Again, if I were a contestant (and somehow avoided being impaled on the steel beam) this would be my strategy every time. Of course, after removing the tag, the 300 lb behemoth would likely accept his fate and just pin me to the turf as our time elapsed. I should probably start juicing immediately.

Overall, The Condemned was enjoyable. Not great, or even good, but I had some fun watching it. Austin has a future as an action star. He's a little too serious for my taste, but I actually dug the timbre of his voice. He just needs a scriptwriter that can provide him with better one-liners. He did have one good line. When asked why he blew up a South American building he replies, "it was blocking my sun." Vinnie Jones was despicably fun and even had a poignant moment when, before annhilating the crew working for the show, he asks "you enjoy watching all of this?" The action scenes were decent, although the explosions had a generic feel to them. No exploding body parts. Inexcusable. The Condemned is certainly superior to the last WWE release, See No Evil. Could have done without Breckel's "either you're with me or against me" Bush-ian rant to his crew. Although, I thought it was a nice bit of blackish humor when, after slapping the audience in the face with this line, he proceeded to physically slap his girlfriend. I only wish she had kicked him in the balls in immediate retaliation. The ball kick comes later.

2 comments:

Beepy said...

Once again, nice review.

I'm thinking that it would be tough to care about these people since they are all criminals as compared to the innocent school children in "Battle Royale." Or maybe that doesn't even matter when people are killing each other.

brian said...

It doesn't really matter. Although, I'm not sure I would call those school children from "BR" innocent. I'm sure the majority of them spent many an afternoon stuck in detention.