Published at: April 25, 2007, 7:44 a.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re giggling about this film already. I mean, come on, it stars a wrestler and has a huge WWE logo plastered on the front of it. There’s no fucking way in hell that this is gonna be any good whatsoever. It can’t be. It’s not allowed to be. So let the critical dog pile commence. Let’s dust off the clichés, let’s don our high-minded attitudes, and let’s, for a moment, pretend that we’ve never watched a minute of wrestling in our lives. Not even when we were kids. Come on everybody! There’re enough high horses for everyone!
Of course, my question is this: Why can’t it be good? I mean, let’s ignore The Rock for a second and consider him some sort of anomaly. What about all the other wrestlers? Virtually every single major wrestler out there that has been given one real shot has one GOOD film that they can call their own that we can’t give them shit about. Rowdy Roddy Piper has They Live, Andre The Giant had The Princess Bride, Jesse “The Body” Ventura got two - The Running Man and Predator - before he became a Governor. Hell, even Hulk Hogan’s attempts to make crapfest after crapfest can’t erase the fact that he appeared in Rocky 3 - although he appeared to try real hard to make us forget that. Of course there are the guys who tried and missed – Like Paul “The Giant” Wight in Jingle All the Way - but some of our most beloved geek movies have wrestlers. So why the hell aren’t we willing to give any others a chance?
Because, as it turns out, The Condemned is actually one hell of a loud, mindless, ass kicking, HELL YEAH of a movie. And it stars a wrestler. Is it the smartest thing you’ve ever seen? Oh fuck no. It ain’t even the smartest thing I’ve seen all day. I’ve got a pair of Golden Retrievers and let me tell you, those pups occasionally surprise me. But this? It’s a redneck rehash of about a dozen other films. But it does very much know what it is and actually strives to do something a bit different, while delivering the expected action thrills, action chills and action clichés.
It’s the story of a man who has purchased 10 of the worlds most dangerous criminals from death row cells around the world, dumped them on a deserted South Pacific island filled with cameras, strapped bombs to their legs and told them that the last one alive gets to walk off the island a free man. But he didn’t count on one thing. STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN is one of those men! Yeah. Even without seeing the trailer or frame one of the film, I know what you’re thinking. Gee, I wonder if Austin is really an innocent man and will turn out to be some sort of Special Forces guy? Don’t worry, The Condemned has got you covered. No cliché is spared. Not in this film.
So how on God’s green earth did I manage to like it? Because writer/director Scott Wiper knows the clichés, and is trying pretty hard to use them against you. Sure this movie requires all the brainpower of a developing 12 year old boy on a sugar high to understand – and sure it at times seems to have been edited by one – but that doesn’t stop the action from kicking ass – or the movie from zigging when you think it’s gonna zag. Hell, despite the fact that this is a story we’ve seen at least a dozen times before, they even manage to tell an angle no one’s really fleshed out before. The How in the hell does anyone manage to so much as work the cameras in a game this inhumane and doesn’t anyone have a conscience angle. We spend plenty of time in the booth – ssshhhhhh with REAL actors even – and not a minute of it is boring stuff. Just when you think they’re gonna lay it on thick, they actually make it pretty interesting.
And there are some pretty awesome kills in this as well – not in terms of blood, but rather, if you’ll pardon the pun, in execution. They’re the kind of kills you walk out of the theatre talking to your buddies about. Oh dude, and when that chick totally snowed that guy! I KNOW! Which really, is the point of this whole thing. This isn’t high art. This is Movies for Guys Who Like Movies. It’s explosions and ass beatings and clever one-liners. And for anyone that likes or can have fun with that kind of thing (like last years Crank) it is a hell of a good time that proves to be WAY better than you probably think it has any right to be.
Stone Cold performs admirably in his first leading role. I mean, it’s not like they gave him any soliloquies or anything, but he certainly sells everything he’s given and provides enough charisma to drive the film. And backing him up as one hell of a killer douchebag heavy is Vinnie Jones – who plays one surprisingly dark, vicious, rapist motherfucker. A bulk of the film really relies upon just how much you HATE him as the baddie.
But obvious problems aside, The Condemned does have a few issues of its own. First and foremost, while the action in the film is pretty cool at times, there are a few scenes that fall into the annoying as fuck QUICKCUTSHAKYCAMWTFISGOINGON editing style. Not all of them, just a handful – which fortunately are over pretty quickly. Then, much to the disservice of the film, the director felt the need to insert some pretty heavy handed commentary towards the end in which there is a monologue that pretty much tries to excuse the director for making this kind of film while admonishing the audience for watching it. It’s something along the lines of We wouldn’t make it if you didn’t pay to watch it, so it’s all your fault. While certainly a true statement, it is wholly unnecessary and comes off as just a tad bit pretentious. And nothing that stars a professional wrestler should EVER fucking come off as pretentious. I mean, it’s not as if the rest of the social commentary in the film is markedly subtle. We didn’t need the lecture. We just wanted to see Stone Cold bust some heads.
Look, this thing is derivative as all hell. I mean, already guys are lining up to try to compare it to Battle Royale while ignoring the fact that Battle Royale stole from a dozen different films before it. It just did it with kids instead of adults. No disrespect to Battle Royale, it’s a cool fucking film, but comparing it to this is kind of like being the guy who thinks he’s a trivia wizard because he can name the first video that ever played on MTV. Newsflash. Everyone knows that fucking answer. Of course this is like Battle Royale. And The Running Man. And Series 7. And Mean Guns. And Hard Target. And Surviving The Game. All the way back to The Most Dangerous Game, which in and of itself was an adaptation. It’s an old story – but this is a good take on it.
Anyone who enjoys action films is gonna have fun with this. You’ll laugh at intentional moments and unintentional moments alike. And overall you’ll have a good, popcorn chomping time. But the guys who are looking forward to this? The folks who watched the trailer and had ZERO fucking apprehension about this? The guys who are going to wear their AUSTIN 3:16 shirts to the theatre Friday morning? This is their Citizen fucking Kane. These guys are gonna lose their minds at how awesome this is. It’s gonna play on TNT for like, a million, zillion years. This is the WWE’s first real solid effort – and I hope to god they use this as a model for rest of their films. Because frankly, I’d like to see some more fun B-movies like this. In a theatre.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.