Film Reviews

THE CONDEMNED

By • Apr 27th, 2007 •

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Tough, mean, nasty, and vicious. Rambo 4 had better come up with something to top this.

When I saw Kinjj Fukasaku’s BATTLE ROYALE I said this was one great film that could never be re-made in Hollywood. I was wrong. If you were a fan of Mark Bennett’s “Survivor,” you must be as disgusted as I am with the puzzle and standing still challenges and constant food rewards. If I were on “Survivor” I would never (a) hug anyone, (b) gripe, or (c) jump off the boat and immediately form an alliance. I would give away any spa reward.

I would know how to make fire.

THE CONDEMNED is the “Survivor” you want to see. It’s a gladiator game for the internet age. (Gladiator games kept the Romans entertained for centuries!) A billionaire television producer, Ian Breckel (Robert Mammone), hunts the world over for death-row inmates ready to be executed. He buys 10 of them (including two women) and drags them to a remote island. The premise is simple for these ruthless killers: The last one standing after 30 hours gets a bundle of money and freedom.

All that has to be done is to kill the others before they kill you.

For $49.95 Breckel will allow those chained to a computer live coverage of the carnage. He’s got an impressive set-up and a dedicated staff: Thousands of cameras are all over the island, cameramen hidden under leaves, and a bank of monitors bringing the best angles and upfront kills. You can even bet on your favorite to survive.

You know when they find a way to do this, they will. (If there was no market for this kind of material, we would not have seen Saddam’s hanging, beheadings, and Islamic stonings online). Hey, someone finally realized Indian reservations – as sovereign nations – could legally run casinos.

Just in case you are outraged by this premise, may I remind you that serial killers and torturers videotape their crimes and sell them. Discovery Channel’s “Most Evil” made this clear. Police evidence lockers are filled with this stuff. Snuff films not only exist, there’s a market for them.

Back to the movie! I like Breckel’s rationale: Don’t buy it if you don’t want it and these guys are ruthless, remorseless killers already sentenced to death. Breckel’s project is a huge hit with 40 million people logging on and willingly paying the price.

These convicts want to survive, not make friends, philosophize on the state of the world or express their inner feelings. I am not insulted that the acting was second to the action.

The action is raw and thrilling. The deaths, while cruel, are imaginative.

As soon as the killing starts, Breckel’s core group gets religion. His girlfriend freaks out and his devoted right-hand man, Goldman (Rick Hoffman), begins to feel guilty. He forgets that his technology made it possible.

As the internet numbers begin mounting, the FBI gets involved. There are Americans out there and it seems one of their own – Conrad – is on the island! They left him twisting in the no-winds of El Salvador on death row. He’s innocent!

Back on the island, one psychopath, Ewan McStarley (Vinnie Jones), teams up with another guy. McStarley is actually enjoying his time on the island. He likes the game. The terrain is brutal and the stunt men really worked hard on this.

There’s an audience for this kind of movie and director Scott Wiper has delivered a solid “R.” Written by Wiper and Rob Hedden, they were even able to inject sympathy for the killers and an innocent hero into the story. Perhaps the glut of “torture porn” and ultra-violent movies is a respond to the American feminization of men, the metrosexual, the TV henpecked husband, and the eharmony.com celebration of men with puppy dog feelings.

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