People die and stuff blows up in “The Condemned 2,” a belated, barely related sequel generic enough to make the eminently forgettable 2007 original look like an oasis of cinematic personality. Sneaked into a handful of theaters nationwide simultaneous with its VOD launch on Nov. 6, this latest effort in the less-than-stellar annals of WWE Studios feature filmmaking will satisfy the target audience’s basic expectations for bombastic action in home formats — though even they are unlikely to be impressed.
While Scott Wiper’s earlier film was a rote mix of “The Most Dangerous Game” and a reality-TV theme set on a remote South Pacific island, Roel Reine’s New Mexico-shot follow-up ditches nearly all of that conceit. Wrestler Randy Orton plays Will Tanner, a bounty hunter leading a team of variously skilled tough guys on a mission to apprehend criminal-gambling entrepreneur Cyrus Merrick (Wes Studi), who, when staked out, is presiding over a wager to see which of two abducted homeless guys will die of IV poisoning first.
In the ensuing fracas, Merrick is killed rather than caught alive. Unamused law-enforcement officials let Tanner go free on probation only if he agrees to leave the bounty-hunting field. This annoys his crankypants dad, who built the family business — a role that ought to be a step up for Eric Roberts (who has a seemingly impossible 45 screen credits listed for 2015 on IMDb) after this spring’s “Human Centipede III,” but which somehow doesn’t play that way.
The actor is fortunate, however, in that his figure eventually grows less annoying, while Steven Michael Quezada takes over the scenery chewing with a vengeance as Merrick’s surviving right-hand man. He begins a new high-stakes game in which Tanner’s former colleagues are blackmailed into trying to kill him — each successive attempt observed by drone as the decadent hoi polloi place their bets in a secret casino. With Dad and an intel specialist (Bill Stinchcomb) as allies, our hero finally closes in on a nemesis who by then has thrown his own hat into the ring as another kill-or-be-killed contestant.”
Apart from the thick slices of ham noted above, nobody here makes much of an impression, as characters or as just simple visual presences. Unlike the first “The Condemned,” which at least showed off the distinctive looks of the many musclebound WWE stars cast, this sequel makes scant effort to exploit even Orton’s imposing 6’5” build. Nor are the stunts, fights and deaths particularly colorful (in fact, some are downright slipshod), despite a general air of bombast and many actual explosions. Alan McElroy’s screenplay travels a surprise-free road littered with dialogue so dumb and obvious it feels economically repurposed from the composted cliches of a thousand prior grade-C actioners.
Clock-punching effort all around is pro but undistinguished in tech/design departments, with nary a stylistic or conceptual quirk in sight.