Though the dialogue is anything but subtle in its messages, Breckel's goal is rather apropos considering the state of entertainment today.
As you read this, the Federal Communications Commission is attempting to enact legislature that will allow Congress to restrict the amount and type of violence on television. According to the FCC, television shows have become increasingly violent in recent years, focusing on murder, torture and graphic fighting. It seems almost serendipitous, then, that this is the week WWE Films and Lions Gate Films chose to release The Condemned, a movie that focuses on entertainment violence, and while it becomes overly didactic in its message and symbolism, it raises interesting questions about the times in which we live.
In the movie, millionaire Ian Breckel (Robert Mammone) has bought ten death row inmates from Third World prisons to compete in a reality show that takes place on an uninhabited island. The game is simple. The inmates are put on the island to kill one another over the course of 30 hours. Each has a tracking device/bomb attached to their leg that will explode when the game ends if no one person has been declared the winner. Breckel has decided to bypass network television, knowing his show is too violent to go over the airwaves, and takes it directly to the audience via the Internet.
The rest of the movie is a montage of explosions, blood and one-liners. Jack Conrad ("Stone Cold" Steve Austin) is clearly the hero from the very beginning when he is reluctantly brought on at the last minute. In an effort to pass off The Condemned as a real movie, or maybe to appease any girlfriends or moms that were dragged to the theater, writer/director Scott Wiper has given Conrad a back story which includes a single mother girlfriend with two kids.
Austin is painful as the lead character and is either drugged are extremely tired throughout the movie. The normally very entertaining Vinnie Jones appears as Ewan McStarly, easily the most sadistic and disturbed prisoner on the island. He appears to actually take pleasure in beating and torturing men and women alike, but becomes boring very early on and is almost unwatchable.
The violence in the film reaches a cartoonish level, and the extent to which cameras blanket the island is laughable. Wiper must have taken a cue from The Truman Show, placing cameras in not only every tree and bush, but actually having roaming, camouflaged cameramen and zip lines crisscrossing the island with mobile robotic cameras.
Though the dialogue is anything but subtle in its messages, Breckel's goal is rather apropos considering the state of entertainment today. How many shows are on TV right now that focus on violence and graphic depictions of death? I can only think that this movie would have worked had it been set in a near-future type society when television had reverted to allowing producers carte blanche on all decisions. Imagine no more writers or actors, but all the violence of 24 and the competition of Survivor and The Amazing Race. Today we can get any show almost immediately after broadcast, if not before, online on network websites or YouTube. For most spectators, Ultimate Fighting Competitions have replaced boxing as pay-per-view watch party programming.
Is the type of entertainment in The Condemned really that far off? If the FCC restricts programming much further, why won't producers go straight to the uninhibited freedom of the Internet where viewers can watch 24-7 for only a small fee? By no means does this movie make any important political or social statements, but it does hold up a pretty effective mirror to the types of programming we pay for and crave in our lives today. | Matthew F. Newlin