Tuesday, September 13, 2016

In short: The Condemned (2007)

At times, Scott Wiper’s film is as tight as a WWE production featuring a meathead wrestler in a Battle Royale/Hunger Games variation can possible be.

It suffers from a handful of things, though: First, there’s the fact that said meathead wrestler is Steve Austin, a guy who is slightly more likeable than Vinnie Jones, the least likeable guy in cheap action movies alive, who is consequently one of the main bad guys here, can’t act to save his life, and is generally to slow and immobile to be all that great in his action scenes. At least, Austin doesn’t get on of his patented “America, fuck yeah” speeches in here, so that’s a plus.

The film makes up for that supposed lack with hilariously hypocritical scenes telling us that cheering on violence is bad while making us cheer on violence, which a cleverer film would probably have broken with a bit of irony, and an even more clever film doubled down on via actual characterisation instead of speechifying. That “show, don’t tell” thing one might have heard about when one writes screenplays, and all that.

Speaking of the violence, it’s generally more on the brutal and nasty side (avoiding the problem of having to make guys like Austin and Jones look elegant or fast), a bit too rapey for my tastes, and often still actually pretty exciting. Unless Wiper suddenly starts to let the camera wobble in vague circles, letting it pop off for a shot of the in-film camera looking down on the characters, pretending shaking the camera gives the action weight and showing a camera gives it meaning. Now that I think about it, it is rather adorable…

If someone would cut about half an hour of footage, this would be a pretty great action film, if a rather nasty one. Alas, as it stands, it wildly fluctuates in tone and tempo, spends too much time one subplots without a payoff (like the FBI guy whose influence on the actual plot is exactly zero), and is dreadful as often as it is fun.

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