Inside the squared circle Randy Orton is one of the WWE's most deadly superstars. He's also one of the best; a third generation wrestler who has become a legend in his own right, known as "The Viper" for the way he can strike from out of nowhere. If only acting was as easy as hitting his patented RKO, because Orton's second crack at taking on a WWE Studios franchise, The Condemned 2, is one botched spot after another.
Only two years ago Orton starred in the dismal 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded, notable for giving the athletic superstar nothing especially athletic to do. The Condemned 2 is a sequel to the 2007 film that starred Stone Cold Steve Austin, one of the biggest flops in WWE Studios history despite being one of their better projects. The basic "kill or be killed" premise remains the same, only it's never exploited in a way that is remotely compelling. Orton plays bounty hunter Will Tanner, and when we meet him and his team through a series of hyper cool G.I. Joe-esque profiles, they're on the hunt for a major pay day capturing the leader (Wes Studi, given little to do) of a Hunger Games-esque tournament in which contestants are forced to kill one another in televised matches. The operation goes south quickly, the team loses out on some major cash, and Will is in trouble with the law. Turns out law enforcement aren't so cool with the whole bounty hunter thing.
"The Viper" becomes the prey when Raul (Steven Michael Quezada) rebuilds the death match operation and makes Will his primary target. It's not long before Will is kidnapped and thrown into a life or death fight for survival against his former squad, while a bunch of rich fat-cats bet on his chances of survival. What worked in the first film was not only Austin's ability to channel his in-ring character's ornery attitude, but the colorful cast of warriors he was surrounded by who brought an array of interesting fighting styles. This film, which is directed by the generally reliable if unspectacular Roel Reine, is littered with characters WWE would be looking to "future endeavor" at their earliest convenience. Unfortunately that extends to Orton's performance as Will, which is flat and droning like one of his lengthy promos on WWE TV. His opponents are a mish-mash of boring soldiers taking pot shots at him through rifle scopes, or littering the desert sand with land mines. It's a complete waste of an idea that could be executed to make a fun, over-the-top action movie.
The only one appearing to be having any fun is Eric Roberts, who yucks it up as Will's father. He's an old hat at exactly this kind of schlock, and acquits himself well in a role that is both comic relief and red herring. But there's just not much else this film does well. Reine is pretty good at blowing stuff up, and there are a few explosions he probably got a kick out of, but this is a generically choreographed film from start to finish.
There's still potential for the franchise to rebound, and given the resiliency of WWE Studios films it will be given every chance to do just that. But the Randy Orton as leading man experiment has taken another loss, and probably should just stay down for the count.
Rating: 1 out of 5