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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Lord of the Flies, This Ain’t

Stone Cold is armed to the teeth
Stone Cold is armed to the teeth

It is tempting to immediately dismiss “The Condemned” as garbage. After all, its cast is headed up by World Wrestling Entertainment superstar and master thespian “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and was directed by noted auteur Scott Wiper, best known for his supporting role in 2001’s Best Picture-nominated “Pearl Harbor.”

Believe me, there’s plenty wrong with “The Condemned.” The film tells the story of Jack Conrad (Austin), who is awaiting the death penalty in a corrupt Central American prison. He is purchased by a wealthy television producer and taken to a desolate island where he must fight to the death against nine other condemned killers from all corners of the world, with freedom going to the sole survivor.

At its worst, “The Condemned” is dumb, sexist and racist. The two female contestants are threatened with torture and rape. One of the two is killed in that manner, while her husband, a fellow contestant, is bound to a tree and forced to watch.

El Salvadorian prison guards have one hand on a machine gun and the other hand holding a cigar. I’m not sure if the film’s writers realize that this is mainly a common Cuban stereotype, but I get the feeling that they don’t care either way. Other prison officers in Belarus look like a poor man’s KGB.

If jokes about African-Americans’ affection for marijuana are your thing, you won’t be disappointed either. And there are plenty of references to the natural Asian ability in martial arts. What, they couldn’t work a math gag in?

And then there have been accusations that it’s a thinly-veiled rip-off of “Battle Royale,” a Japanese film about teenagers dropped on a tropical island and forced to battle each other for survival, with the lone survivor able to return home. Producers haven’t commented, but there are some major parallels between the two.

Surprisingly enough, there’s also plenty right with “The Condemned.” Vinnie Jones is pitch perfect as the film’s villain, and will simultaneously have you laughing and squirming in your seat. Racial stereotypes aside, the film features a global, multicultural cast. Though running the risk of sounding heavy-handed, the film makes some intelligent observations on violence, foreign policy and the ethical void the Internet could easily become.

Austin in the main role isn’t totally unsatisfying, either. He’s basically reprising his role as “Stone Cold” here, something that he’s very good at. Austin is the first to admit that he has things to learn. “This acting thing is hard,” he remarked in a recent interview.

As for the film’s message of nonviolence, “It’s nice that it has a message, but that’s not why I signed up for it,” Austin admitted. “I just wanted to make something entertaining.” It’s not exactly “Lord of the Flies,” but it’s successful in some of its own ways.