It would be churlish to dismiss The Condemned as violent crap. It is, in fact, badly made violent crap.
Launched from one potentially interesting idea -- what happens when the Survivor reality TV craze is taken to an extreme -- The Condemned is the story of 10 people who must fight to the death on a deserted island.
The fighters are all hardened criminals, and all are taken from grotty prisons (and death row) in various dubious countries. They are then dropped by helicopter on to the island.
"What's going on here?" you probably won't be asking yourself. But you get an answer anyway: "This is not war -- this is television. Much more complicated," says a cocky young producer. Indeed, this battle to the death is all his mad scheme, and the island is covered with cameras to capture the carnage. And the world can watch! For a fee. The fighting will be streamed over the web, viewers will pay to see this new snuff form and the clever producers will be very, very rich. Now you have it.
What's left are 100 minutes of unspectacular killing scenes, bad dialogue and some grunting. Each of the combatants (a few of whom are women, by the way) wears an ankle bracelet filled with plastic explosives, so one can always blow up an opponent in a pinch. And just in case the fighters decide not to fight, the explosives will be triggered. One way or another, nine out of 10 people will blow up real good. Last one standing gets to live.
While the criminals fight, the TV folks sit up high in a broadcast tower on the island and take note of how many million viewers get on board after each killing. Ka-ching!
But wait! In there among the politically correct mix of ethnically varied murderers is one muscle-bound contestant who doesn't seem to fit. Why, it's Jack Conrad (pro wrestler Steve Austin)! What's he doing there, fighting for his life?
A quick check with the Pentagon reveals that he works on black ops for the government. They couldn't get Conrad out of that prison in Central America, but never mind -- he's going to fight his way off the island. Soon, folks in his home town are cheering him on as they watch the island bloodletting on a big screen in their local bar!
Why would we make that up?
Unlike the other killlers, Conrad is a good killer. You know, an American government killer. And unlike the other killers, he's smart. Bet he could find his way across the island to that control tower ...
The Condemned is technically inept at times and often boring, despite the subject matter. There is not one shred of character development, so who dies and how is not very interesting. The film has gross scenes of rape and torture and killing. It also has a stern lecture on the violence peddled by those who create entertainment (seriously), so you won't know whether to laugh or cry. So just don't go.
SUN RATING: ONE OUT OF FIVE STARSPhoto gallery from The Condemned's Toronto premiere
(This film is rated 14-A)
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