Wow. I was prepared to lay into The Condemned and tear Steve Austin a new one for being foolish enough to believe that he could make the transition from the "WWF" to the big screen, but the movie is shockingly entertaining, not at all too cheesy and not nearly as stupid as you'd expect.
The Condemned stars Austin as one of ten convicted felons who have been taken from prison, placed on an island full of cameras and forced to fight to the death for their own freedom. Conceived by a money-hungry millionaire who is looking to take advantage of the Internet by web-broadcasting his sudden death competition, the show immediately becomes a hit, despite its controversial nature. Back on the island, Austin becomes a reluctant killer to survive.
The concept is a pretty lame one, and not something that could be turned into a believable or respectable action film. Or is it? Director Scott Wiper has delivered a fun and relatively brutal action movie that has plenty of fighting, some explosions and a plot that while not particularly believable, still works. Even the movie's attempt to question the world's love of violence doesn't fall flat, even though "WWF" fans looking for non-stop action may be a little violence.
Maybe The Condemned is a recipient of lowered expectations, but the film was thoroughly entertaining. Sure, it doesn't have deep characters, but Austin is likable enough and Vinnie Jones evil enough to establish some clear protagonists and antagonists. The action isn't the best ever captured on screen, but for a mindless action film, it is more than acceptable.
In the end, The Condemned is a fun little guy's film full of punches, slams, explosions and gunfights, and that's all that's really needed.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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