If we can compare movie watching to dieting, then I consumed about three Big Macs watching The Condemned on Sunday. Produced in part by WWE Pictures (yes, that’s World Wrestling Entertainment), this is an action film that would have been more entertaining had it not tried to address questions of internet or journalism ethics. However, these attempts at social commentary raise some applicable questions and loads of great jokes after the credits roll.
The Condemned is the title of the internet program started by Ian Breckel who fancies himself something of an internet genius. In his latest production, he dumps a group of death row convicts from around the world on an island in the South Pacific. In this most extreme death cage match, the sole survivor wins their freedom and a pocket full of cash. Breckel and his associates have planted cameras all across the island that stream the deadly encounters live around the world in the hopes of gaining more viewers than the Superbowl. Wrestling star Steve Austin stars as Jack Conrad, the American favorite to win the whole thing.
The movie would have actually been fine had it stayed within its mindless violent bounds. However, as an action film, The Condemned falters when it tries to make social commentary on journalism ethics and the role of the internet as a purveyor of both news and entertainment. Halfway through the production, two of the program’s producers, Goldman and Julie, express reservations over the intense violence and rape being shown live, as if they didn’t know what they were getting into when they flew to the island to begin production.
On the other hand, the questions that the film raises are valid, especially in light of the Virginia Tech massacre and NBC’s decision to air Cho’s pictures and video confession. Yet this scandal comes on the heels of internet videos that show terrorist kidnappings and beheadings. What should the internet show in a world where traditional news sources often lag far behind bloggers and youtube? Is anything permissible in the world of internet programming as long as people have to pay and log in to see it? Couching these questions in the midst of some serious violence, The Condemned makes for slightly interesting, if heavy-handed, viewing.