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RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes
• Commentary by director Scott Wiper
• Commentary by Wiper and Stone Cold Steve Austin
• The Making of The Condemned five-part documentary
• Capital Carnage Reunion featurette
• Storyboard comparisons
• theatrical trailer
It’s what we’d really like to see happen on Survivor.
Stone Cold Steve Austin, Vinnie Jones, Robert Mammone, Rick Hoffman, Madeleine West.
Taking reality TV to its most extreme – and most profitable – TV producer Ian Breckel (Mammone) organizes an island smackdown where 10 death row inmates from third world prisons are gathered to do battle to the death, with the lone survivor guaranteed freedom. Among the contestants is Jack Conrad (Stone Cold! Stone Cold! Stone Cold!), a mysterious American badass doing time in an El Salvadorian prison after getting caught doing a covert mission for Uncle Sam. The inmates all have plastic explosive ankle bracelets attached to their feet and the only one who’s alive at the end of 30 hours will have it taken off before it goes boom. Only interested in surviving long enough to contact his girlfriend, whom he hasn’t seen since his incarceration, Conrad has to fight his way through the other nine inmates and also Breckel’s ratings-motivated machinations to achieve his goal.
"Hate to tell you this, son, but we are doin’ a prison movie here, so…"
Gotta come clean and admit that I’m an unabashed wrestling fan. Been watching it since the first days of Hulkamania, Nikolai Volkov, The Four Horseman, The Iron Sheik, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Magnum T.A., Randy “Macho Man” Savage etc. In a business dominated by individuals whose ridiculously muscled bodies are dwarfed only by their colorful personalities, one of the most fun and entertaining wrestlers to come down the pike in the last 15 years is easily Stone Cold Steve Austin. Unique in that his beer-drinking, antihero status helped usher in an entirely new era in wrestling, Stone Cold would always bring the entertainment to the squared circle and although he’s retired now, mostly due to injuries, he’s still fun to watch whenever he makes a cameo during a match. With the number of wrestlers who have tried to make the transition to acting – going all the way back to Andre The Giant – the qualities that made them a star in the ring don’t always transition to the silver or small screen. The rare exception is of course The Rock, but as charismatic as he is, and I dig a lot of his work so far, even he seems to still be having a little difficulty finding that truly breakout role. Now the latest to make the attempt in a big way is Stone Cold.
Those cage matches are getting a little extreme to say the least.
Since the WWE has started its own film division as a vehicle for its talent, The Condemned is the third film in the last year to feature a past or present major wrestling star, and features a mixture of premises from No Escape, Survivor and The Running Man. So how does Stone Cold do in this film? Well good and not so good. First of all, it’s easy to see that this role is built to play to his strengths: smart ass comments and physicality, but Stone Cold is like a block of marble in terms of acting chops: he needs more chiseling, but the potential is definitely there. Conrad is a no-bullshit, physical behemoth who’s quick with the one-liner when the opportunity is available. He’s still too much like the Stone Cold we all know and if Austin is looking to have a long career in films, he’s going to have to find ways to distinguish his upcoming characters from himself more than Conrad was.
"Looks like I got 10 people to kill. I’m gonna go find the sumbitch who’s running this friggin’ rain machine and introduce his head to his sphincter the hard way…"
Playing the heavy, Ewan McStarley, is erstwhile Juggernaut Vinnie Jones, and here he’s pretty much what you’d expect a typical Jones character to be: a deranged nutbag who gets off on the killing, including raping and beating one of the female inmates and setting her husband on fire. Also suitably slimy is Mammone as instigator Breckel, who’s only interested in the almighty ratings with as little compunction about showing the deaths onscreen as McStarley is about causing them. Also fine is Rick Hoffman as TV engineer, Goldman. Hoffman has got the market cornered on playing assholes, typically of the white collar or Jewish variety, and I always like seeing his work and him being given the chance to do what he does best. The rest of the cast is alright, with few outstanding performances. Although director Scott Wiper did use several unknowns with nice racks, which almost always makes up for any perceived acting deficiencies. Although Madeleine West, who plays Sarah, Conrad’s girlfriend, does a pretty nice acting job, without it getting too overly drippy. The fact that she’s a knockout is also nice to boot.
Yeah, I could see bumping off a dozen people or so to get home to that.
The script and Wiper’s directing are all passable, although Wiper is yet another fan of the blipvert-style cutting of fight scenes, which I wish would die as quick a death as some of the convicts in the movie. The Condemned isn’t a standout kind of action film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is more entertaining than one might first think it would be and it’s definitely got enough going for it to make a rainy Saturday go by quite nicely. I’d say it definitely deserved to do quite a bit more box office than the pathetic numbers it turned in during its disastrous theatrical run. The action is brutal and there’s plenty of mindless violence and bone-crunching physicality to whet any action fanatic’s palate. I do look for good things in the future from Stone Cold. He’s got an easily likeable personality and isn’t above doing side projects such as Celebrity Deathmatch; and for such an imposing figure, it’s nice to see that he’s basically just a hard working guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously. I just hope he doesn’t end up like Hulk Hogan, doing a string of movies with worst scripts than a typical episode of Friday Night Smackdown! Although, in five years from now, if he’s doing Three Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain 2, we’ll know how that all worked out for him.
Turns out Vinnie liked things quiet when he was pulping you into meat sauce.
Even though this film didn’t have a successful outing at the box office, the DVD package the producers have put together here is much more stacked than one might expect. The film looks good in a washed out, rugged, anamorphic 1.78:1 and the Dolby 5.1 is nicely ear shattering. There’re two commentaries, one by Wiper and the other with Wiper and Stone Cold, the latter being the better of the two. I’m always of the opinion that commentaries are best when the participants have someone to bounce their stories and anecdotes of off, and Wiper and Austin seemed to have gotten along nicely and their rapport carries through in the commentary. There’s also a nice five-part Making of The Condemned, which consists of: Game On, Pain Club, Inside the Control Room, Island Mischief and Are We The Condemned which in all total about 40 minutes and hit upon the major facets of the production. Everything from casting Stone Cold, to the fight scenes, the control room set up, shooting on location, etc.
"Sorry Stone Cold, but we’re here to finish what Rikishi started…"
There’s also a featurette, Capital Carnage Reunion which runs about 3 1/2 minutes and highlights a previous meeting of Stone Cold and Vinnie Jones at a WWE London event in 1998. Austin and Jones reportedly got along famously during this shoot and they had fun watching themselves nine years prior, when Stone Cold was still kicking ass and taking names in the ring. Jones was featured in a walk-in role where he interfered in the match and allowed Big Boss Man (RIP) to get a nice heaping of Stone Cold Stunner. Stone Cold at Movie World runs at two minutes and is just a quickie little showing of Stone Cold at Australia’s Movie World attraction where he signed autographs for a line of people that seemingly stretched al the way back to the States. Storyboard Sequences is sic minutes of storyboard comparisons to the actual film footage. Actually haven’t seen one of those in awhile. The theatrical trailer rounds out the offerings. Overall, this is a nicely loaded disc and should keep Stone Cold fans busy for awhile.
Man oh man did Snuka have a surprise when he tried that tired ass Superfly shit…