or “Stone Cold Killers”
Featuring: Steve “The Expendables” Austin , Vinnie “Snatch” Jones , Robert “Man-Thing” Mammone
Director: Scott “The Marine 3: Homefront” Wiper
Writers: Scott “The Marine 3: Homefront” Wiper , Rob “Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan” Hedden , Andy “Simon & Simon: In Trouble Again” Hedden
“This is not war Breck, this is television. It’s much more complicated!”
Intro: I may not have made it clear enough in my Tag Team review, but I’m a huge nerd when it comes to wrestling. None of that legit shit though, I’m talking the really stupid stuff with grown men in tights with gimmicks who pretend to fight each other amidst bizarre pageantry that shames those creepy mini-prostitution contests that mutated the ‘L’ in TLC from “Learning” to “Lascivious”. And not in the good way! As much as I thought WWE Studios (they changed the name from WWE Films shortly after this “film” underwhelmed both monetarily and critically) would’ve gone the way of the XFL years ago, there must be some solid home movie market keeping it alive, because their theatrical saturation is badly dehydrated… heh, moisture humor. Even the screens they do end up shown on make shit for box office. They did wise up as far as not making their wrestlers the front and center of every movie, relegating most of them to much deeper territory on the movie credits totem poles and casting legit actors for the starring roles. They had an oddly successful production last year with their Halle Berry vehicle The Call, which debuted at #2 in the country and pulled in about as much domestic dollah dollah as the studio’s 10 prior poopers combined!
Anyway, here’s my rerun for The Condemned. It’s basically The Hunger Games for adults… so it’s basically Battle Royale with convicted criminals instead of high school students… so it’s basically a “serious” modernization of The Running Man. It’s not unlike the way Death Race 2000 beget Death Race, only without having to pay Stephen King for the “Running Man” name. Have at it, kids.
“They shot my fucking Arab?!”
Tired of everybody else making money off of their trained monkeys, Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment (formerly the World Wrestling Federation until the World Wildlife Fund decided to throw a judicial fit over the use of the initials “WWF”) started up their own movie division in the hopes of getting a big chunk of the paycheck from the next wrestler to make the successful crossover from squared circle to action movie notoriety, like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Of course Lionsgate picked up the distribution for all of WWE Films productions because, well, Lionsgate are whores looking for the next underdog success story, like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, only with less fellatio… I hope.
WWE Films’s (and I hope they’re using the term “films” in an ironic sense…) first release was the slasher flick See No Evil, which was a combination knock-off of Friday the 13th Part 2-D, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: the Embarassment Generation, and Four Rooms, only the killer didn’t wear a mask… because you can’t try to whore out your employees to Hollywood if nobody can see their face. See No Evil bombed like Al-Queda at an Easter Egg Hunt. Their second flick was the generic action hero revenge movie The Marine, which saw Robert Patrick sink to a new low when he kidnaps the girlfriend of, you guessed it, an ex-Marine. The titular protagonist was played by John Cena, the so-called star WWE has been trying to force down our throats outside of the ring as hard as they’ve been forcing him down our throats inside of the ring for the last 10 or so years. Explosions and adrenaline fueled hijinks ensued to mild financial success. Yay. For this third effort, WWE expanded their plagiarism sights to the far east, ripping off Japan’s Battle Royale franchise. To make it more palatable to American consumers though, the bizarre twist of desperate school kids dragged out of the comfort of their safe little lives is replaced with the basic stand-by of convicted criminals with nothing to lose fighting for their freedom (*cough*TheRunningMan*cough*) in an effort to appeal to the US audience’s taste for testosterone… which probably tastes like chicken… or armpit sweat… or chicken wingpit sweat… Obviously this falling back on traditional tropes wasn’t enough to convince people to crack open their wallets at the box office, cuz I seem to remember The Condemned doing the lowest box office numbers of the three WWE celluloid bricks pinched to this point.
Defamed Hollywood producer and raving racist ratings rapist (say that ten times fast, I dare ya!) Ian “Breck” Breckel (Robert Mammone), along with his semi-likeable a-hole technician Goldman (Rick Hoffman as a cross between Jeremy Piven, Joe Rogan, and a dozen donuts), is ready to make a fortune on the project that will put him atop the world: a globally broadcast internet Pay-Per-View event that will pit 10 death row killers from all corners of the planet (a term no doubt coined when people didn’t realize that Earth is a sphere and HAS no corners) against each other to the death on an otherwise deserted island for a 30 hour murder marathon with the winner getting freedom! Some call it a live snuff film, some call it extreme sports combat at it’s finest, some call it a rip-off of Battle Royale, but either way it should be an interesting train wreck to watch. Each of the ten “competitors” is fixed with a high-tech tracking ankle bracelet that, you guessed it, will detonate if its pull tab is yanked. It’s the deadliest game of flag football you’ll ever play! Also, if they’re still sporting the weaponized jewelry when the 30 hour time limit expires, well, so do they!
As for who these guys and gals trying to kill each other are, here’s what we’ve got:
- Jack Conrad (former WWE figurehead turned action movie maven “Stone Cold” Steve Austin) – the American hero with the mysterious past who’s just so darned tough that he won’t even accept the keys to his manacles when he’s dropped on the island!… but mostly stands around and does pretty much nothing until properly “motivated” into defending himself. Obviously his jail term was one of those “miscarriages of justice”, likely due to killing someone in defense of himself or a loved one. Jack’s picked from an El Salvador prison when he shit beats an Islamic fundamentalist behemoth Breck (not to confused with “Brak”) is scouting. Though this denies him his Arab contestant he was hoping to use to appeal to Middle Eastern audiences, Jack will bring in the Anti-American crowds! He hails from FuckYourMomma, Alaska (I hear the fishing there is amazing) but Breck bills him as a redneck Good Ol’ Boy extremist from the South to help sell the image.
- Ewan McStarly (bad ass soccer hooligan turned cinematic cockney thug Vinnie Jones) – the downright evil and remorseless misogynist bastard Brit with special ops military training who gets “condemned” to having the stupidest name of the cast. The sinister heavy of the flick and Jack’s inevitable antagonist.
- Petr (failed former WWE wrestler turned generic action movie shaved gorilla Nathan Jones… no relation to Vinnie) – the Herculean Man-Sasquatch (or “Mansquatch”) of the group, who we’re introduced to while killing three men in some unnamed zoo of a prison. He’s also mute because, well, Nathan Jones shouldn’t be allowed to speak. Trust me. He makes Schwarzenegger’s early work look like Brando.
- Saiga – the prerequisite crazy little Japanese guy who prerequisitely knows martial arts and has a weird thing for sunglasses.
- Kreston Mackie – the angry black American… or, if you’d ask a Republican to describe him (without using a slur), the black American.
- Yasantwa – the angry black African who might get it on with the angry black American… oh, and she’s a woman. Sorry to anyone who was coming into a testosterone dripper and hoping for sword fights of the fleshy kind. The homo-eroticism is only implied here.
- Paco (Manu “30 Days of Night” Bennett) and Rosa Pacheco – modern day Mexican Bonny & Clyde. So, I guess they’d be Boné y… Clyde? I don’t know. I took Spanish for 3 years in high school and didn’t retain mierda.
- Helmut – the grumpy old German guy who’s just there so the Germans have some representation. He’s not a Nazi war criminal, nor does he go into battle dressed in the traditional Lederhosen combat garb of his people, so there’s really not a lot to care about in Helmut.
Dominic – the Italian guy whose sole purpose is to talk a lot of shit, threaten to gut everybody, and then get dropped onto a wooden spike by accident for comedy relief before the show even starts. In the wrestling biz, he’s what’s known as a “jobber”.
No offense to the cast members whose real names I didn’t list, but when you do something worth talking about, I’ll gladly make a note of it… Is it just me, or do I come off as King Asshole sometimes? Or am I thinking of King Vitamin? Either or.
In a lame effort to try and make this more of a “legit” movie with some actual plot and less of a simple down and dirty bloodsport flick, there’s all manner of side shit going on involving the FBI trying to track down the secret secluded island locale of Breckel’s broadcast, dramatic morality conflicts between Breck’s production crew, and an uncovering of Jack’s background that includes following his waitress ex-girlfriend around and some government cover-up conspiracy that got our hero El Salvadored in the first place. That’s not what we’re here for though, so anyone interested in the counts for this Super Bowl of carnage, here we go: 1 spike impalement; 1 neck stabbing (via wood splint) followed up by numerous “testi exploder” kicks to the jimmies; one guy beaten mercilessly for several minutes with multiple bones broken before he’s shot through the stomach with an arrow and SET ON FIRE!; 1 arrow in the back; 2 knives in the guts; 2 slashed throats; 9 people gunned down; 1 very harsh scene of McStarly beating and slashing one of the female contestants with an implied extended rape afterward; and 7 folks turned to fine particulates by ankle bombs! Add to all of that the inmate who gets his neck broken by Petr before the show even starts and you get a bodycount of 23! Overall, a pretty fair bit of bodies and bloodshed for a movie that makes no illusions about not being Shakespeare… though, much like Hamlet, pretty much everybody’s dead by the end credits, so maybe it is trying to be Shakespeare?
For a movie whose action is all supposed to be being broadcast on stationary cameras, it’s irritating as Hell to have to sit through shaky cam during some of the fisticuffery. Thankfully the shaky doesn’t come into play too much, with the exception of the the Conrad vs. Petr fight. Then again, the five or six wrestling fans who remember Nate Jones’s short stint in the WWE probably remember he wasn’t exactly one of the better guys at making fake fights look real, so that might explain why it looks like the cameraman’s having seizures for this scene.
When it’s over, The Condemned tries to be a morality tale about America’s unsettling love for violence and depravity while simultaneously giving us the same. You can call that art or you can call it bullshit, I don’t really care. As a Direct-to-DVD feature it would be great, but as a theatrical release it’s a basic low-level action production. It’s hard watching the “making of” stuff on the DVD for The Condemned because you see the cast, the filming crew and the stunt people setting up and shooting this nightmare and physically beating the hell out of each other in hideous conditions on gruesome terrain and you almost get this Ed Wood pity for the thing. I’ve also got a personal bias as a guy who likes Vinnie Jones, Steve Austin (though he should keep his acting to a wrestling ring and cutting promos), and any version I can get of that “Old Black Betty” song, so if you want the “real” rating for this flick, you might want to drop a good point or so before you run out and rent it based on this review… not that I imagine anybody making their rental choices based on my reviews, to be honest.
Xtro: Since this was originally a Shorty (i.e. capsule review), having watched it again there’s a few things I’d like to add to my thoughts on The Condemned.
For starters, Rick Hoffman is probably the best non-killing part of the movie. I liked him when I originally reviewed the movie, but this time around I appreciate him even more. As the beset upon “Goldy” (coincidentally enough, a nickname often used for WWE wrestler Goldust), he’s the manic Jewish comedy relief. Thanks to Breck’s cost cutting measures (i.e. cheap-assiness) the laborers on the show employ nothing but local work-for-Pepsi-and-bits-of-string natives. Naturally this region doesn’t speak much English, so Goldy’s trying to put together and maintain a production that’s, as he puts it, “bigger than Farm Aid meets We Are the World and I’m supposed to do it with sign language?!” Goldy’s humor gets cut off once everything turns into a conflict of dollar signs vs. being able to sleep at night though, so his best contribution to the flick farts out about 2/3 of the way through the running time.
Funny enough, Helmut (or “The German” as he’s referred to in the credits) is played by actor Andy McPhee, who hails from Australia…Germans – so universally distrusted that Hollywood won’t even hire them to play German characters! Trivia note: McPhee went on to some notoriety as Keith McGee in “Sons of Anarchy”… possibly… I don’t know. I still haven’t watched it. What? Shut up. Continuing on with the cast, Steve Austin was bland as bleached flour here. I’ve seen him do a helluva lot better, but maybe it’s the writers’ fault. He probably wasn’t allowed to do anything other than read his lines, cuz in this case the actor has way more to offer than the role. He can be a leading man, but much like his wrestling promos, Austin needs the barest of direction so he can be allowed to direct his magic to wherever he wants to take it.
On the plus side, this is the kind of movie that relies more on a compelling villain than a hero, and we actually get two decent baddies. Like Dr. Frankenstein, Breck’s obsession with his goal pushes him beyond humanity until he’s as much a monster, if not more so, than the actual monsters he’s created. Also, just like Victor (or Victor Von if you’re going by Hammer mythology), Breck and everything he’s created are ultimately destroyed by his creations. Speaking of, Vinnie Jones is detestable as McStarly. I feel nastier in my guts from watching the impression of the shit he’s done and had done to him than anything I saw in anything the Saw or Hostel movies had to offer. It’s because the worst stuff isn’t shown for MPAA purposes, but it has a Texas Chainsaw Massacre mental brutality to it for that reason. Jones’ monstrous portrayal makes McStarly irredeemable, and even though you can’t help but want him to die, he pulls this last minute sympathy turn at the end about his hideous military past and what he suffered through for his loyalty to make him what he is. He’s a rabid dog – there’s no helping him and it’s better off for everyone with him dead, but for that brief instant you can’t believe you actually pity the creature…
Enough of this nancy pants “emotions” crap! I don’t know what the Hel I was thinking when I first wrote this review and said that the shaky cam stuff only ruined ONE fight scene. I hate shaky cam. Maybe whatever makes me able to see the pathos underneath an otherwise generic torture porn action flick also made my already heavy intolerance for shaky cam flat out toxic, because every time somebody started throwing fists, I had to pop another Dramamine!
As for writer/director Scott Wiper, he would go on to do nothing. Well, not nothing, since WWE Studios did bring him in to work his “magic” with their threequel The Marine 3: Homefront, but he did NOTHING ELSE for the 6 years in between. Being a financial flop, The Condemned didn’t exactly lead to an illustrious post-flick career for “The Wiper”, as he was pretty much wiped from the collective consciousness of audiences before even getting in there in the first place. You might say he’s condemned to languish in obscurity… good thing they don’t make those exploding anklets set to detonate when amateur movie reviewers use shitty puns based on movie titles, or I wouldn’t be here typing this follow-up line describing the idea… in which case the device wouldn’t have come into existence anyway… I think I just created a time paradox. If I just ended all reality, I apologize.
Oh, and one massive urethral parasite to finish up with – the movie ends on a Nickelback song… if that’s a good thing for you, please go slam your head in a car door until you’ve learned your lesson. And on that note, this rerun is OVER!
Moral of the Story: When filming a gang of the world’s deadliest criminals on an island killing each other, make sure your productions facilities are on a different island. You think Jeff Probst stay on the island while they shoot “Survivor”?! No. The further away from the “talent” the better.
“Shaun? Why don’t we ever make love with the lights on anymore? Be honest.”
It’s Sweet Dee’s doppleganger!
“Jeezus. I didn’t think it was possible for someone to cultivate one zit on top of ANOTHER zit, but there it is!”
Steve Austin stars in the re-remake of Willard.
Call me old fashioned, but no prison guard should EVER have as well practiced a rape face as that EVER! Fuck! I’m gonna have nightmares about this guy now!
“I was promised prune juice and Werther’s Originals! WHERE’S MY DAMN PRUNE JUICE AND WERTHER’S ORIGINALS!?”
“Damn it Pedro, why can’t I QUIT you!?”
I know Antonio Banderas hasn’t been doing as many movies in recent years, but the man’s REALLY letting himself go!
No, Vinnie. No Maverick-ing. Stop it. Just stop it now.
“Hello? What? Uhm… I don’t know. What’s ‘Prince Albert in a can’?!”
“What do you mean what’s ‘Prince Albert in a can’?! It’s a brand of tobacco that comes in a can! What do you mean you don’t use tobacco?!”
“I’M SORRY! I DON’T SMOKE TOBACCO AND I DON’T KNOW WHO THIS PRINCE ALBERT PERSON IS! PLEASE STOP YELLING AT ME! WHAT?! WHAT DO YOU MEAN, ‘IS MY REFRIGERATOR RUNNING?!’ I’M HANGING UP NOW AND I’M CALLING THE COPS!”
Swamp Thing takes his voyeurism to a new creepier and incriminating level. He’s got a tree stump full of these tapes back at his place.
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes a cigar is a cigarillo. And sometimes a guy smoking a big thick cigar is a sign that he likes other big thick things in his mouth. So, I guess smoking a cigarillo means that Vinnie Jones likes Vienna Sausages. Flawless logic wins again.
These leaked production photos prove it: the next Jurassic Park will center on a gang of motorcycle riding raptors! Called it. Clever girls indeed.
Reaction shot of Steve Austin using the toilet after the Undertaker – a mistake he never made again.
“I’ve got your bloody ‘Hunger Games’ right here, you little twats!”
“Somebody’s gonna explain why my cable bill was so high last month, and they’re gonna fix it right fucking now!”
Steve Austin battles government surveillance devices this summer in his next Direct-to-DVD epic, Drone Hunter!
“This was on the floor while I was vacuuming today. I think it goes to one of your He-Man dolls?”
“They’re not ‘dolls’, they’re ‘action figures’… and yes, that’s mine… Thank you.”
Anubis will return next time in
“African American Explosive Device!”
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