From WrestleMania to Battle Royale rip-off

by Beacon Staff • April 25, 2007

After suffering from a pile drive, a maneuver used by wrestlers that secures the opponent's head in the general crotch area while holding onto their body and driving it into the ground, former WWE champion "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was advised by doctors to do something else.

"I always tell people that when I go out in the ring I give 120 percent," Austin explained in an interview with The Beacon. "If I went back in the ring right now, I'd be giving 98 percent. Could I do it? Yeah. But the bottom line is I could probably last only two years."

Austin climbed out of the ring and into acting with The Condemned, his big action film debut that opens tomorrow.

In the movie, Austin plays Jack Conrad, an ex-CIA operative who has been chosen to be among a group of the world's most dangerous criminals partaking in an illegal game show set up by a brilliant and merciless TV producer on an uninhabited island off the Pacific coast.

The career change was a chance for Austin to spread his wings and to show, at least to Hollywood, that he was more than just the large screaming guy on "Friday Night SmackDown!" It wasn't time for the superstar to fade into the back alleys of entertainment yet, but when offered a chance to be on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," Austin told the show's producer it probably wouldn't be very good for his career.

If The Condemned isn't well received, we might be lucky enough to see Steve Austin dancing alongside former *NSYNC-er Joey Fatone and John Ratzenberger from "Cheers."

Judging by the quick Hollywood success of another ex-pro-wrestler, Dwayne Johnson-better known as "The Rock"-The Condemned will perhaps be the first of many films in Austin's career.

The big man's a little bit nervous for the premiere.

"I'm anxious for people to see [The Condemned], because in all the times I've been at meetings in Beverly Hills and stuff, people think: that's 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin, he's loud, he's going to cuss a lot, he's a foul mouth, and he drinks beer, and that's all he is," Austin said .

He explained how different it was to go from working an audience to speaking quietly into a camera-the lack of adrenaline which many stage actors experience when stepping off the stage and onto the set.

"It's a real trip, this acting thing," he said.

Anyone familiar with the Japanese cult classic Battle Royale will recognize this brutal and twisted plot scenario, in which the people chosen for the island have two days to kill each other off in order to stay alive. The Condemned is by no means as cynical or gory as director Kinji Fukasaku's action thriller. Perhaps this is due to the fact that we're not watching two hours of 15-year-old kids blowing each other's heads off, only criminals.

The movie also makes an attempt to condemn violence when members of the show's crew come to the hard realization that filming people murder one another for ratings isn't as self-satisfying as they first considered.

The WrestleMania maverick who has made his living out of entertaining audiences with violence, doesn't seem too concerned with the film's content. Although understanding that the movie was based around a very violent premise, Austin believes the film endorses far less sadistic themes than most others in today's theatres, referencing The Passion of The Christ.

"When they beat Jesus up for about 45 minutes, well that was one of the most violent things I'd ever seen," he said.

There's an overall gung-ho mood to the film; yeah, we get to see Stone Cold open up a can of whoop-ass on some bad dudes. For its overall predictability and classic Hollywood ending, moviegoers will most likely accept it for what it is early on and enjoy, or realize that they're in the wrong theatre for Wild Hogs, and quickly exit.