What happened to all the bad action movies from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s? You know, the ones with Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal and Chuck Norris. The Condemned is the closest thing I’ve seen to those b-action classics in the last few years. And watching The Condemned I felt myself yearning for those type of films. But sadly The Condemned is not. Although it came very close.
The film stars former pro wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin as Joe Conrad, one of 10 inmates on death row who is chosen to be part of a real life Survivor. The show, which is being illegally broadcast on the internet, pits 10 condemned killers from all corners of the world up against each other. Nine will die, and the sole survivor will be given the gift of freedom. Imagine Battle Royale meets The Running Man, but on a lower budget and scale.
What’s most surprising is that the film actually has some depth. It attempts to make a statement about our internet and reality show obsessed culture. How far are we willing to let things go? And will we watch? Far and Yes.
The low budget action film suffers at in the weight of the action sequences, which were so nauseating that people were running out of the theater. I’m usually not one to get sick as handheld camera motion. I remember a few years back, theater owners were offering refunds to people who got motion sick during The Blair Witch Project. I was not one of those people. But The Condemned is a visual assault on your eyes. One other critic theorized to me that the action sequences were shot like that to avoid being a total contradiction to the film’s underlaying message and to create that exact reaction. He claimed that we are use to graphic violence, but by making the sequences unwatchable, the filmmakers created a reaction that we should be experiencing. I wish that were the case, but I suspect that the production didn’t have the time or resources to choreograph and shoot complex action sequences.
Steve Austin does what he’s there to do. He delivers a set of one liners that are deserving of any other b-action hero, but he doesn’t have the charisma of The Rock. Austin was originally attached to play the Villain, which I thought would have been a much more interesting choice. The true star coming out of this film is Rick Hoffman, a character actor you may remember as the asshole lawyer in Cellular or the American Client in Hostel. With the exception of television work and a bunch of bit parts, Hoffman has gone virtually unnoticed. Hopefully someone will see The Condemned and recognize his potential.
/Film Rating: 6 out of 10