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The Condemned (DVD)

Starring: Vinnie Jones & Steve Austin.

Rated: 18.

Story: Ten death row criminals from around the world are dumped onto a small South American island. They're promised that the last one left alive will receive their freedom. For only $49.99, subscribers get to watch the ensuing carnage live on the internet.

Liberals across the globe wring their hands in horror but then cough up fifty dollars for 'research purposes' anyway. Inevitably, it all ends in explosions.

Comments: There's a long history of people whacking each other round the head while other people pay to watch. From gladiatorial games to Medieval tournaments to modern-day boxing, the combat has generally got less fatal over the years but there have always been people keen to watch a good fight.

The Condemned makes the point that giving all the contestants on Big Brother machetes would do wonders for the ratings but turn the participants, producers and viewers into monsters. Brutal violence isn't entertainment. It's violent and brutal. Don't encourage it.

Well, unless it is entertainment, of course...

It's probably safe to say that watching real people blow each other up on grainy CCTV footage isn't good for you, even if they are psycho criminals. This point gets a little muddied, however, when wrapped up in brutal high definition fight scenes slickly choreographed to be entertaining. Keeping watching can be uncomfortable as the distinction between fantasy and reality becomes blurred. Whether this is genius or confusion is difficult to tell, though.

The film just manages to push through its self-contradictions but is let down by an ending which descends into stock action movie territory of an American hero meting out explosive 'justice'. Ultimately, The Condemned isn't quite as clever as it should be.

Luckily, it has lots of violence to keep everyone entertained...

Conclusion: A good action movie that could have been a classic with a little more thought. Instead, it comes close to tearing itself apart.

Explosions: Plenty.
Moral confusion: Some.
Vinnie Jones: Too much.
Steve Austin: Surprisingly competent.
Important life lessons: If you're going to dump a load of psychos on an island to kill each other, don't give them explosives and then hang around to watch...

Rating: 4/5.


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