The Condemned is a 2007 action film, directed by Scott Wiper. It stars former WWE star “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, as well as Vinnie Jones and Robert Mammone. Austin plays Jack Conrad, a man who is purchased from a prison while on death row. He is told he is going to be dropped on an island where he will be forced to kill 9 other people. The last man standing is allowed off the island, and becomes a free man, (or woman). The people behind this idea are making an internet television show, in hopes of getting as many subscribers as the Super Bowl gets viewers.
This actually is a fairly interesting premise. Similar to Battle Royale in many ways, but instead of using children to fight to the death, they use people already condemned to death on death row. Being told just the premise, you could be expected to think that The Condemned is going to be a brutal kill-fest, where hilarious one-liners would be said, and characters would all die in a creative and memorable way. You can then be forgiven for expecting this when only about half of it actually occurs. It is a brutal film, but there aren’t all that many one-liners, and there really aren’t any special kills. Used as incentive to make the people on the island fight, an explosive anklet was attached before the characters were released into the jungle. After 30 hours, this device will detonate; assuming more than one person is still alive. The device can also be detonated early, but pulling a tab connected to it. The tab being pulled ends up being the way the majority of the characters die, and while it can be fun to see people explode, seeing it many times lessens the enjoyment. It also doesn’t help that a lot of the action that does take place happens in a way that you never actually see it.
The main problem the film has is the way it was filmed. The shaky cam that is utilized makes it hard to see what is going on, and the times where it isn’t used, the quality is lackluster. This is due to it being shown like it would if the show was actually being streamed on the Internet. The quality is bad because it is intentionally supposed to be, but it ultimately leads to you not really being able to see what is happening. It also makes you not really care all that much. There are times where you do get to see some fight scenes in actual clarity, and these end up being the best part of the movie.
It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that the action scenes in an action movie are the best part, but the fact that the action scenes you actually get to see are scarce, means that you actually end up bored for more of the film than not. This isn’t helped by the fact that none of the characters are all that likeable or developed.
Now, even though each character is a death-row convict that has been condemned to death for doing unpleasant things to people, this isn’t a reason for them to not develop. You would think that being put in a situation where you have to fight to the death would change people. If the movie is to be believed, it doesn’t. That’s weird, as even though Jack Conrad is the main character, he actually isn’t in all that many scenes. The other characters unleashed on the island each actually gets about the same amount of screen time as Conrad, even though he is the only character you feel any sympathy for. As expected, he shouldn’t have been on death row in the first place, has kids and a wife at home, and is actually an all around good guy. He doesn’t really want to hurt anyone, and in a sense captures the message of the entire film.
One of the subplots that the film throws in the face of its audience is the notion that violence is bad. This is coming from a film whose audience is going to be one that wants to see violence, and a film that has a selling point of being violent. The message of the film is a contradiction to its entire premise, and ends up alienating the people actually watching it. That seems like a bad idea on paper, but the film actually goes through with it, making the final third of the film basically completely fall apart.
The Condemned is a really odd film. On one hand, it’s a graphic action film about a bunch of people set loose on an island who each have a goal set for them. They must kill everyone else on the island before 30 hours, or they will all be blown up. On the other hand, it’s a film that tries to send a message to its viewers about how the portrayal of violence in the media has gotten out of hand. This ends up harming the film, making the people who watch it feel bad for doing so. This message might have worked if the film had characters that mattered, but none of them do. They are all cliched as could be, and end up being completely forgettable. Not even the action scenes can save the film, as most of them end up being hard to follow with the constant use of shaky cams.