A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that teens who are into pro wrestling may be drawn to The Condemned by star "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. This brutal action movie -- which centers on the idea of a fight-to-the-death reality TV show -- is packed with aggressive, bloody, loud "realistic" violence: Characters punch, kick, throttle, body slam, bite, and head-butt each other in fights (not to mention cut throats and grab crotches), and weapons include guns, knives, chains, clubs, and ropes. People are thrown roughly from helicopters (one is gruesomely impaled on a stake, while others plunge into water or hit land, hard) and fall from cliffs and against rocky mountainsides. Two men rape a female contestant (the scene is indistinct on screen but causes visible upset). Language includes many uses of "f--k" and plenty of other swear words. Lots of cigarette smoking and a bit of drinking.
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What's the story?
While locked up in a Salvadorian prison, Jack Conrad (Steve Austin) catches the attention of Ian Breckel (Robert Mammone), a reality TV producer who's scouting talent for his latest whiz-bang of an idea: Ten death-row inmates get dumped on Papua New Guinea, where they fight to the death; the last one standing goes free. The live 30-hour pay-per-view event is to rake in millions. The game begins, and Jack finds himself surrounded by thugs and killers. Though he makes friends with Paco (Manu Bennett), Jack's one goal is to somehow contact his girlfriend back home. A 14-year veteran of the Special Forces, abandoned by the U.S. government during a black ops mission gone wrong, Jack appears to have something resembling a conscience; he's troubled after he kills someone. His adversaries include a loud-mouthed cretin named Nazi (Andy McPhee), a psycho martial artist (Masa Yamaguchi), and a cheater named Ewan (Vinnie Jones). As the fighting goes on and on, the moral lesson is pounded home. It's suggested that the extreme violence has "crossed a line" when people start getting blown up and raped, and a reporter accuses Breckel of producing a "live snuff film." Her disgust doesn't bother him, because he plans to be rich. But after Ewan and Jack wreak all manner of vengeance on these greedy "TV people," Donna shows up again in a coda: "Those of us who watch," she intones soberly, "we are the condemned."
Is it any good?
THE CONDEMNED borrows from a number of sources, but its focus on mass media ethics calls to mind the weirdly campy Running Man. That was the movie in which game show host Richard Dawson oversaw a to-the-death contest featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger (in an astounding pink Lycra suit). In Scott Wiper's version, the men wear manly clothes, the violence is more brutal, and the dialogue is less snappy. But the overly simplified point is the apparently same: TV producers are scum. And after the film delivers nearly two hours of bloody bedlam, one character puts the blame on viewers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence on television and other media. What are the effects of watching such violence? Does exposure to violent media make kids more aggressive?
How does The Condemned make a case against media violence even as it delivers exactly that?
Families can also discuss reality TV. Do you think any reality show would ever go this far? Why or why not?