Right when you pop in this DVD you'll be in for a treat as the WWE Films logo comes on the screen with this ridiculous orchestral music. You'd think you were about to watch some sort of art house film or documentary on the holocaust. Instead you're about to view the last movie of a trilogy that included See No Evil and The Marine featuring Stone Cold Steve Austin in his first featured role. The hottest wrestler in the world from 1997-2001, drawing huge PPV buyrates and selling a ton of merchandise, will the Texas Rattlesnake have what it takes to carry a major motion picture?
The Condemned started off in a prison located in Russia where we met Nathan Jones. That's right, the very same Nathan Jones who washed out in WWE and went to Hollywood where he has been featured in such movies as Troy (a decent popcorn movie) and Jet Li's Fearless (not nearly as good as I thought it would be) and always plays the same the character, "the big guy on steroids." Jones' character was so important to The Condemned that his official name in the movie is "The Russian." Anyway, Jones was filmed as he killed three other prisoners and was recruited for a new Internet PPV being produced by Ian Breckle. The $49.95 PPV would feature ten death row inmates from around the world fighting to the death until one remained. That remaining one would be set free.
Breckle came across as half Calvin Ayre of BODOG and half Joe Francis of Girls Gone Wild fame. Breckle had an entire production team set up on Papua, New Guinea, that included hundreds of cameras set up throughout the island. We were introduced to Breckle as he gave a one-on-one interview with some sort of TV newswoman and he was outraged that she would question the morality of his PPV. Breckle stormed off in a huff and the newswoman retuned to her job in the states. Keep in mind that a running subplot of this movie was that the FBI couldn't track where the PPV was being filmed, even though this newswoman was on the island.
This is also where we were introduced to Breckle's hot blonde girlfriend, Julie. This girl hasn't been in any other movies that I can tell and, unfathomably, there is no gratuitous nudity in The Condemned, a stark departure from the action films I grew up with like Under Siege and Die Hard. Surely this had more to do with the 15% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes than the horrible script.
During a production meeting, Breckle was informed that one of his ten contestants had died and he demanded that they have a new Arab to replace. You see, another subplot of the movie was that Breckle and his director had an argument over how many buys this PPV would sell. Breckle said it would draw 40,000,000 buys, "Super Bowl numbers," and he didn't want to alienate the Middle East by not including a guy they could root for. Breckle was probably the type of guy telling investors during the dot com bubble that millions of people would be buying their dog food at Pets.com and using online currency at Flooz. We cut to a prison in Ecuador where an Arab prisoner was tossed two white guys to dismantle. One of those guys was Stone Cold Steve Austin, and the poor Arab got less offense in than Scott Hall at WrestleMania X8. Breckle was so impressed that he scrapped his plan of having an Arab and instead wanted Stone Cold as the American who the rest of the world would hate.
And here you thought the WWE buried Austin when he walked out of the company rather than job to Brock Lesnar on Monday Night Raw. To make sure that Austin's character, Jack Conrad, was seen as the PPV's lead heel, the production team concocted a bio that stated he was a former member of the KKK who was currently in prison for blowing up a school for the handicapped and mentally retarded. Like I could make that up. We then got to meet some of the other contestants including a husband and wife team, a black guy, a black girl, an Asian guy who reminded me of Liu Kang fromMortal Kombat, and a couple other goofs. The contestants were all informed of the rules of the game which were simple: be the last one alive at the end of thirty hours and you will be set free. Each of the contestants were also strapped with a bomb on their ankle that had a convenient red tab which would detonate the bomb in thirty seconds if pulled.
The eight men and two women were then loaded onto helicopters and dropped off throughout the island. In a scene I actually thought was pretty cool, the one contestant who was talking a ton of shit was tossed out of the helicopter and found himself impaled on a piece of wood below, just like how Saruman went out in The Two Towers. Each of the prisoners were chained, but were handed a key as they were thrown out. Bad ass Jack Conrad delivered a stiff elbow in the helicopter and was dropped off sans key.
On the beach we got our first attempted rape of the movie as The Old Guy caught up to The Black Girl and tried to get his groove on. The Black Girl was crafty though, and after kicking the guy about a dozen times in the nuts, she pulled his pin and he blew up. Conrad ran into The Mexican Guy, and after a small struggle, let the guy go when he said that he was only looking for his wife. The Mexican Guy thanked Conrad for letting him go by tossing Jack a key to unchain himself. Keep in mind that every one of these ten prisoners were on the PPV because they had killed a ton of people and were literally the worst the of the worst. This one act bonded Conrad and the Mexican Guy for the rest of the movie.
In the jungle, the Black Guy and the Asian guy had a small fight before the Black Guy ran off. Watching him run, the Asian stumbled into Vinnie Jones' character, McStarley, and McStarley said the two of them should team up. Conrad (Austin) than ran into Nathan Jones, and we got a glimpse of the Dream Match we never got to see on WWE TV. One thing that drove me crazy in the Condemned was also the only thing I didn't like in the Bourne Ultimatum, and that is the insane camerawork during fights so that you can't tell what the hell is going on. It didn't matter much here though, as Conrad made quick work of Nathan Jones and pulled his pin before pushing the Russian off a cliff. BOOM! I believe this unique finish of a match was later copied by the bookers of MTV's Wrestling Society X.
The FBI made their first appearance in the film and we found out that they couldn't figure out where this PPV was taking place. However, they did receive a tip explaining who Jack Conrad was, and that led to them to Conrad's girlfriend in Texas. Turns out that Jack Conrad wasn't really Jack Conrad, he was actually Jack Riley, a deep cover Black Ops agent who was left out to dry after he shut down a drug cartel in Ecuador. Conrad/Riley's girlfriend didn't know any of this and just thought that he left town, apparently sick of her and her two kids. From this point on I'm going to start referring to Austin's character as Austin because this Conrad/Riley bullshit is going to drive me insane. Anyway, Austin's girlfriend went back to her sports bar and paid the $49.95 to see what the hell Austin was doing.
Back on the island, McStarley and the Asian Guy captured the Mexican Guy and his wife and proceeded to kick the crap out of both of them. After tying up the husband, McStarley and the Asian went over to rape the wife. While all this was going on we cut to the production team, several of whom - including Breckle's Hot Blonde girlfriend and the director - began to have second thoughts on the entire project. After the rape, McStarley and the Asian blew up the Mexican wife and turned around to find that her husband had escaped. Elsewhere, the Black Guy and the Black Girl ran into each other and had a touching moment where the Black Guy explained how he ended up in jail as he was being given a massage. After a long backstory that included the Black Guy being sold out by his girlfriend over some jobs, we found out that the Black Girl had pulled the Black Guy's bomb pin while he was telling the story.Oh no you didn't! BOOM!
By this time Austin had run into the Mexican Guy and we learned that the Mexican had a broken leg. Austin told him not to worry as Austin had seen a tower on the island and was heading there to get some help. Austin eventually made it to the tower (where the production team was set up) and was able to make a quick call to his girlfriend. During that call Austin explained that he loved her, and her kids, and was able to give her the longitude of the island before being discovered. While all this was going on, Breckle's Hot Blonde girlfriend and the director confronted Breckle about shutting down the PPV. In the background of their argument was video of McStarley and the Asain kicking the living shit out the Mexican Guy. This went on forever. It ended up with the director returning to work, the Hot Blonde disgusted with Breckle, and Austin returning to find McStarley and the Asian putting the boots to his Mexican friend.
I forgot to mention that several times in the film Breckle had dropped goodies from a helicopter for McStarley to find, and in one of those bags was some sort of high tech bow and arrow. McStarley shot an arrow into the Mexican right before the Asian poured alcohol over the Mexcian and burned him alive. It was now "Game On" for Stone Cold. Back in Texas, Austin's girlfriend had returned to her bar to watch the PPV, which was now being transmitted to the Big Screen TV.
The next morning, McStarley and the Asian chased Austin into a bunker. Also inside the bunker was the Black Girl, but nobody save Austin knew that. Yada yada yada, the Black Girl pulled out her own pin to blow up the bunker as Austin went out a secret hatch. At that point, everyone from McStarley, to the production team, to Austin's girlfriend thought he was dead. I still can't figure out why the Black Girl did that, but I wasn't going to rewatch it ten times to understand the motivation.
After the FBI explained to Austin's girlfriend that he was a good guy who they cut loose, and she gave them the longitude of the island, Stone Cold made his first comeback by quickly dispatching of the Asian and chasing after McStarley. In a Jack Evans-like highspot, McStarley jumped off a cliff into some water below. Austin followed. Coming out of the water, McStarley found another bag of goodies, this one containing a machine gun. McStarley used the gun on Austin, apparently killing him as Austin fell down a bunch of rocks and into the water. Everyone in the production booth and at the bar thought Austin was dead again.
Out of nowhere, the interview with that girl newswoman from the beginning of the movie played at the bar and this has to be seen to be believed. She went into what seemed like an hour long melodramatic rant on the morality of the people who were watching the PPV. As it turned out, Breckle was right and he reached his forty million buys. The newswoman criticized the violence in our culture and asked if it was really we, the viewers who watch and condone this depravity, that were ultimately the condemned. It is hard to describe how out of place this diatribe was considering it was in a movie whose sole selling point was non-stop violence. Just bizarre as Simon Cowell would say.
Breckle was given a heads-up that the government was on its way to crack down on the PPV and he was preparing to get the hell out of Dodge, leaving his entire crew behind. The director found out about this, but was more upset to learn that he was being shafted out of the PPV revenue. Breckle had his right hand man, the guy that held a knife to Stone Cold's face in the helicopter, killed the director. Meanwhile, McStarley was driven back to the production camp and he also demanded a cut of the PPV revenue. In what I think was supposed to be a Vince Russo-like shocking SWERVE~! it was revealed that Breckle had been in collusion with McStarley from the start, promising him a victory. McStarley also wanted his bomb turned off, so Breckle put this mysterious pin in it that stopped the thirty hour countdown. Breckle then told McStarley to go screw and left him there with two guards. These were the two most incompetent guards in the history of film as one of them wasn't even looking at McStarley while the other was busy lighting his cigarette. The guards in Austin Powers movies acted more believable. McStarley than went into the production headquarters and started to gun down every single person, one by one.
McStarley only had one person to go, the Hot Blonde girlfriend, and it's a little vague if he was planning to rape her before he shot her. Didn't matter, because out of nowhere Stone Cold was standing directly behind McStarley with a gun. McStarley dropped his gun, turned around to Austin and did the whole, "we're not all that different, you and me," speech right before Austin blew him away at point blank range. I'll admit that I didn't see that coming. Oh God, I forgot that during McStarley's speech he had the WTF moment of all time as he described being in prison and being raped up the ass several times per day. You've got to respect a writer who throws that type of back story in for absolutely no reason. Anyway, the Hot Blonde told Austin that Breckle was going for his helicopter and Austin took off in quick pursuit.
And I mean quick, as Austin almost caught up to Breckle even though he was at least fifteen minutes behind. Breckle laughed manically as his helicopter took off and Stone Cold began firing uselessly in the air. All of a sudden the Hot Blonde appeared, as she can apparently run as fast as Austin, in heels. She handed Austin McStarley's ankle bomb and pulled the pin. Austin took the bomb and threw it into the helicopter. A panicked Breckle tried to grab the bomb, but his seatbelt kept him from reaching far enough. At that point I told my girlfriend, "see, that's exactly why I don't wear my seatbelt!" BOOM! The helicopter blew up.
BUT THAT'S NOT ALL. The helicopter, which was now in flames, kept spinning and proceeded to crash into the side of a mountain, where it blew up a second time. BOOM! Austin looked at the outcome of his handiwork while the Hot Blonde turned gave him that mysterious pin to stop his own bomb. Hmmm, that gives me an idea. Maybe a real swerve ending would have had a smug Austin looking at the exploding helicopter and then realizing there was a beeping sound. Austin would look down at his leg, realize it was his bomb beeping, and then look up to find the Hot Blonde holding his red tab. Austin would blow up, and then we would cut to Texas, where the Hot Blonde would show up at Austin's girlfriend's house with Breckle's two billion dollars. The two women would then passionately kiss to end the movie. Like wrestling, this would prove that every woman in the world is ultimately either a liar or a slut and probably really ingratiate the writer to Vince McMahon. He could parlay that into a deal to write See No Evil 2: Justice is Blynd in which we find out Kane's character had a secret twin brother named Blynd Goodnight, and he comes back to the Blackwell Hotel to avenge his brother's death. Look out Dan Madigan, I'm gonna have your job someday!
This movie ended with Austin being driven up to his girlfriend's house and he smiled as she came to the door. THE END.
OVERALL THOUGHTS: What can I say, it is what it is. If you go in expecting a no-brainer action movie, I don't think you'll be too disappointed, in fact my girlfriend actually liked the film more than I did. Then again, she didn't grow up during the Arnie/Sly Stallone era where these type of movies were being pumped out all the time. There are nowhere near the amount of moments where you will roll your eyes out of your head, like The Marine, but there are a couple of clever bits placed here and there. Special features include a bunch of making-of stuff and commentary with Austin, but don't get me started on this as all the deleted scenes were stuffed onto a bonus disc you could only get if you bought the DVD at Wal-Mart. I hope those bonus discs turn out to have Chinese lead in them (but if you have this disc, email me immediately). Bottom line, you've seen worse movies and Austin does carry a lot of charisma. You'll also get to hear him drop a lot of swears in this movie, including cocksucker. If that's not a reason to check it out, I don't know what is. Click HERE to get your copy of The Condemned delivered to your door.
Special Thanks to the Dr. Keith Show's own Dr. Keith for his help with this review. On this week's Dr. Keith show he will be discussing Ian Rotten's retirement and the upcoming Ted Petty Invitational.
Guest Booker with Gabe Sapolsky DVD
Roddy Piper in HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN DVD
Irv Muchnick's Wrestling Babylon book
The legendary IWA-Japan King of the Death Match tournament featuring Mick Foley and Terry Funk
And if you enjoyed this review, you will totally mark out for Sean Carless' Super Secret WrestleMania 24 Dream Card piece in which he presents you the card that Vince McMahon didn't want leaked out. Truly awesome work that had me rolling.
THE TWF "MENTAL WELLNESS TEST!"
With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).