The Condemned




The posters for "The Condemned" include the tagline "10 People Will Fight. 9 People Will Die. You Get to Watch."

They ran out of space before they could include the words " ... and be Bored Silly" by this D-grade "Running Man" ripoff, starring World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Steve Austin as one of a group of death row cons (including a couple of women) who fight for their freedom on a streaming webcast orchestrated by a ratings-mad producer.

As off-putting and ridiculous as it is ponderous, this WWE Films enterprise should have been condemned to fight for space on the DVD shelves rather than be thrust upon unsuspecting moviegoers, but distributor Lionsgate obviously has other ideas.

Directed by Scott Wiper (2000's equally derivative "A Better Way to Die"), from a script he penned with Rob Hedden, the story centers on an egotistical TV producer (Robert Mammone, with a seeming nod in the direction of Joe Francis) who's determined to get the kind of viewers for reality programming that broadcasters can no longer deliver.

His brainchild involves corralling 10 condemned killers, with names like the German, the Italian, the Russian and Paco, and let them go at one another on a remote island, played by Australia.

The last man standing wins his freedom, and the producer pockets millions.

But a potential spoiler has arrived in the intimidating form of Jack Conrad (Austin), a good ol' Lubbock, Texas, boy, sentenced to death in an El Salvador prison with a covert past and a real sense of decency beneath that menacing brawn.

He proves to be a considerable match for resident sicko McStarley (Vinnie Jones), a sadistic British special forces agent with a history of rape, torture and murder.

All the ensuing gratuitous violence and mock moralizing about society's voyeuristic craving for this kind of stuff might have been met with more revulsion had the movie not been so dopey and tedious.

While some of those contestants blow up real good (they're outfitted with ankle-bracelet bombs that discharge if they are tampered with), the lags in between are killer, and the dialogue isn't even B-movie worthy.

Austin, who has proved himself a capable actor before on "Nash Bridges" and in the Adam Sandler version of "The Longest Yard," does his stoic thing but hasn't been handed the sufficient tools to work with by Wiper and Hedden.