(Comments on the supplemental part of the disc are pulled from Gary Van Auken’s review of the Blu-ray version of the disc, which can be foundhere.
I’d received a copy of The Condemned as part of its star’s massive publicity swing to promote said film. Despite the film’s abysmal 16% rating on rottentomatoes, the protagonist of the film is professional wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin, who certainly knows how to charm people when he needs to. However unlike other wrestler’s Hollywood dreams, this role was Austin’s first feature, and his third acting performance overall.
Based on a screenplay by Rob Hedden (Clockstoppers) and directed by Scott Wiper (A Better Way To Die), Austin plays Jack Conrad, a man with a somewhat mysterious background awaiting a death sentence in a Central American prison. He is pulled from prison and put on an isolated jungle island with nine other similar death row inmates. They’re part of a contest running on an online site, where the criminals fight to the death. The winner gets freedom and a truckload of cash to boot. Some of the criminals might be familiar faces to some, including Masa Yamaguchi (The Great Raid), Rick Hoffman (Hostel), and everyone’s favorite colorful former soccer player in Vinnie Jones (Snatch).
The story itself isn’t entirely unfamiliar, kind of like Predator meets, I don’t know, that Ice-T movie where he’s got to avoid getting killed, meets The Running Man. But Austin manages to pull the role off surprisingly well. It may be remedial, but it’s actually fun and worth watching, despite you knowing how it’s all going to end. While it was nice to see Jones acting like quite the bad ass, the main thing that kept this from being a decent movie is that it’s about a half hour too long and seems like it’s a bit full of itself. But I liked watching it and it was a fun flick.
Surprisingly this is shot in 1.85:1, as I’m used to action films being shot in 2.35, but c’est la vie. The anamorphic widescreen presentation is perfectly fine, with image quality being sharp for the film. If anything, since I’ve been watching nothing but high definition titles lately, I was spoiled on this 480p viewing, but I wasn’t bummed out.
You get a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX surround track that is pretty active and packs a punch on the low end when required. Again, listening to high def audio and their lossless soundtracks has corrupted me a bit recently, but this is a more than capable soundtrack.
There are a decent amount of extras found on this disc. For those of you that like commentaries there are 2 of them – one with Stone Cold and Director Scott Wiper, and the second one with just Director Scott Wiper. The Stone Cold track is quite good; he really takes control of the commentary and gives it that little edge that he has. There is a five part featurette which is pretty interesting. They cover a wide variety of topics from getting the film together to a good look at creating the fight sequences. The fourth one was my favorite as it shows the humorous sides of all the “tough” guys on the set. They were all pretty standard but closer to the high end than the low. There are about 20 deleted or extended scenes that are at least worth watching once. To top it off there are some storyboard sequences, theatrical trailer and a first meeting video between Steve Austin and Vinnie Jones from 1998. That meeting was during a WWE Pay Per View and it was cool to see them interact almost a decade earlier. If you are a fan of extras and a fan of Stone Cold then the bottom line is you will get a good amount of both.
It’s not really fair to say that this is a knock off and dismiss it as such. Austin has said that everything borrows from everything else, so if you take that attitude into the film, you might wind up enjoying it a bit more than you would think. Technically the film is pretty good and there’s a few pretty good extras attached to it, so give it a spin, please. Or else he’ll kick my ass.