DanvilleSanRamon.com

Living - May 4, 2007

Movie review: The Condemned *

Rating: R for relentless language and violence Run Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

'Tis the season for mindless violence, judging by the release of this bloody actioner directly on the heels of Tarantino's "Grindhouse." Since when did spring bring blood and guts?

The premise is ridiculously simple, and simply ridiculous. Egotistical media tycoon Ian Breckel (Robert Mammone) makes grand plans to stage an epic contest that pits the world's strongest men and women against one another in a gruesome fight to the death. Live snuff film disguised as a grisly morality tale.

Did I mention grisly? Breckel sends his henchman to some of the world's bleakest prisons to gather 10 desperate "contestants" for a reality show with consequence: Nine will die and the grand prize winner will walk away with his freedom.

The death-row hopefuls are dropped onto a fully-wired island (400 lenses!) in Southeast Asia while millions of Internet subscribers the world over tune in (at $49.99 a crack) for some mortal combat gladiator style. Each contestant has an explosive tracking device attached to his or her ankle that will detonate after 30 hours. Kill or be killed - game on!

Director Scott Wiper makes the critical mistake of copping an attitude and a conscience about the inherent pitfalls of reality TV. The only way "Condemned" will play is by spoofing the genre - instead it gets mired in preachy prophesizing over gratuitous violence. The laughs roll on, unfortunate and unintentional.

Serious fans of Kinji Fukasaku's "Battle Royale" (of which I am one) will see the parallels here; far more rip-off than homage. Bottom line, this is a vehicle for World Wresting Entertainment star "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, a heart-of-gold hooligan whose mano-a-mano fight scenes generate as much heat as a flickering campfire. Micro, and I mean micro, points for some snappy photography.

Long, loud and pointless.

--Jeanne Aufmuth

For more movie reviews and local theater times, go to www.DanvilleWeekly.com

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