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With Jim Sabatini

The Condemned

The Condemned

Rated: R 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: April 27, 2007 Released by: Lions Gate Films

WWE Entertainment has a vehicle for Steve Austin that leaves him and a violently battered audience "stone cold" in The Condemned.

It would have been more appropriate had the makers of this low grade film even watch something like Series 7 - The Contenders instead of The Running Man, as salacious material gets absurd as it comments on the ethics of reality programming.

Austin (not bad in The Longest Yard with Adam Sandler) plays Lubbock, Texas native Jack Conrad, chosen in a "Survivor"-ish battle royale on a remote island where death row inmates, including him, go at it. Australia stands in for the island which the FBI have trouble locating.

The film's tagline includes your watching ten fighters and nine dying for a grubby ratings hungry producer Breck (an uncharismatic Robert Mammone) who promises the last person standing (one woman at least is involved ) a bag of money as he attracts 40 million viewers on a streaming webcast.

With anti-American sentiment high, Breck is okay when the clandestine Conrad is traced at an El Salvador penitentiary as the Arab planned to be taken to the island is "unexpectedly" killed.

Though Gov. Schwarzzennegger might have a chuckle or two watching unintentional laughs come up, he knows his 20-year-old B-movies have the brawn, even some brains over this wildly unspectacular display of egoism and gratuitousness.

The craving for this kind of snuff stuff to witness someone's freedom turns out to be something precipitiously formulated and backed by moguls like Vince McMahon. And, the voyeurism and social commentary integrated, especially later in the elongated tale, doesn't help at all to make it less bland and boring.

Like Disturbia, there are anklet contraptions that detonate instead of tip off the police, so some contestants meet a sudden, explosive demise. And, the chief adversary for Conrad is the vicious British special ops McStarkley, acted sadistically by Vinnie Jones (Snatch). Especially after both take a plunge into a cavernous water enclave.

Conrad obviously is better to take when he's dishing out a beatening, instead of speaking, given the dismal dialogue. A strong dose of Red Bull in the preproduction meetings might have shed more light on a project that is mad and mopey to say the least.

Maybe there could have been some potential with a notion of a phantom menace around brutal, hardened criminals, ala Con Air. But, it's clear that the mockery reaches silly heights when a reporter looks into the camera after an interview sadly stating that "we are the condemned."

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