Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Condemned 2

WWE Studios’ waited eight years to follow up on the sequel to 2007’s twisted reality show survivor flick, The Condemned. Steve Austin is busy taking in the riches of podcasting though and was unavailable for the sequel. Instead we get WWE Studios’ back-up veteran, Randy Orton. He has experience in the direct-to-video sequel market after his lead performance in 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded, and now he and also 12 Rounds 2 director Roel Reine team up once again for 2015’s The Condemned 2 (trailer).

I was actually a fan of the original Condemned film and its premise where it stuck eight convicted felons on a remote island in order to fight for their freedom. The sequel switches things up a bit. Randy Orton portrays Will Tanner, who leads a team of Bounty Enforcer Agents (wait a sec, is this actually the follow-up to Bounty Hunters?) in a routine mission that terribly goes awry. Tanner winds up shutting down the bounty hunter team and attempts to live life on the straight and narrow with his dad (Eric Roberts).

After several months go by a former foe by the name of Raul (Steven Quezada) comes up with a plan to exact revenge on Tanner. Raul accomplishes this by kidnapping family members of his former squad mates and forces them to kill Tanner within a certain time window or else their loved ones bite the bullet. To make Raul extra slimy, he is filming all this live with the latest hi-tech drones broadcasting to an ensemble of fellow criminals to make bets on the winner, complete with customized betting felts with all the squad members’ names.

The first film was such a disaster in theatrical box office that it lead to WWE’s film division becoming a direct-to-video outlet ever since 2007. Part of me is surprised they are still churning out two-to-three films a year, but since DTV production values are typically much lower than theatrical productions I imagine WWE must be turning in enough of a minimal profit on each film to still keep its film division chirping along. With that said, I will give WWE credit for not simply rehashing the exact same plot as the first film. Like 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown last month I went into this without watching a preview and was thrown off yet again when WWE retooled the premise for this film.

I do not think Reine was going for unintentional camp in this action flick, but there are several moments of unintended levity that got me cracking up for the wrong reasons. I like the concept of the drones being constantly on the prowl to track Tanner’s every move, but whenever the camera cuts to a shot of the drones and attempts to make them look ever-so-menacing I could not help but get flashbacks of those awful CGI birds in Birdemic which resulted in the same effect here where the drones looked more laughable than sinister. Additionally, there were far too many shots of the criminals looking extraordinarily criminal-ly placing bets on that silly makeshift gambling board. Whenever Tanner would manage to bide some more time and escape a deadly encounter there would be another ironic shot to the criminals slamming their fist down and screaming expletives. I have no idea how the betting system for this game Raul is hosting works, but in a cooky-DTV-B-action movie way it delivered on all ironic fronts. Also, props to Raul for working in a throwaway line of dialogue that officially linked this film to the story of the first Condemned.

Campiness hijinx aside, I did not mind how this sequel played out. Each former squad mate Tanner encountered kept me guessing if they were going to make a run at him or ally up with him to fight off Raul. One part that bugged me was how a lot of the squad mates other than the first did not seem all that conflicted about their loved ones being targeted and were going after Tanner against their will. A lot of them just came off as instant-bad guys when I felt like things should be a bit more heated in their rivalry. Not to spoil too much (read ahead to next paragraph if you desire), but some of the squad mates are shown in the film’s aftermath sharing a hearty laugh with Tanner and his dad when I could not help but wonder ‘why are they not out looking for their kidnapped loved ones?’ The film treats this big impetus for the squad mates as an afterthought throughout and forgets about this big plot point altogether by the film’s end.

Minus the nice looking overhead drone camera work, you can tell The Condemned 2 wears its DTV budget like a badge of honor. There are some nice shootouts and explosions, especially some nice sniper skirmishes, but overall they pale in comparison to the first film that is nearly a decade old. There is a short extra feature detailing the special effects that went into the drone camera work and after watching it I could not help but think that is where half the budget went into. There is one other short extra feature about the fight choreography and that is it for extras on the BluRay.

The former squad mates and Raul leave a lot to be desired and all come off as DTV caliber veterans who are all around decent, but nothing spectacular. The only standout performance is by Eric Roberts, who is exponentially better than the rest of the cast in his supporting role as the judgmental/concerned/supporting father. Randy Orton is OK as Will Tanner on the WWE actor grading curve, and is about as effective as he was in 12 Rounds 2. The same can be said for The Condemned 2 as a whole, where like 12 Rounds 2 it is OK overall, but nothing remarkable and nowhere near as good as the first. If you have been jonesing for another Condemned fix all these years like myself, than go ahead and rent this and throw back a few Steve-weisers beforehand and you will be all right, everyone else need not apply.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

12 Angry Men (1957)
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Atari: Game Over
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Bounty Hunters
Cabin in the Woods
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Clint Eastwood 11-pack Special
Dirty Work
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Hercules: Reborn
Man of Steel
Marine 3 & 4
Mortal Kombat
The Replacements
Rocky I-VI
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Source Code
Star Trek I-XII
Take Me Home Tonight
The Tooth Fairy 1 & 2
Veronica Mars
The Wrestler (2008)
X-Men: Days of Future Past

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