"The Condemned 2" stars Randy Orton as a likable underachiever who disappoints his family and associates. A similar criticism could be leveled at the film.
The story concept is actually a vast improvement over "The Condemned" (2007), which was basically a retelling of Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game" with multiple "contestants" pitted against one another and video surveillance. This version adds elements of films like "The 10th Victim" and "The Tournament;" a revenge plot similar to the "12 Rounds" movies; the blood sport promotion to jaded reality television viewers used in the "Death Race" films and the idea of jaded gamblers wagering on the survival of the contestants.
The script has numerous elements that could have been developed much more effectively. The gambling angle was highlighted, but made little sense. Bookies make money regardless of the outcome of sporting events. It makes no sense at all that Raul would be concerned that the events would somehow break the house.
Another intriguing angle is how the villain managed to intimidate and coerce several characters who seem particularly insusceptible to coercion. This is never explored or explained and detracts from the film's tenuous credibility. One character, presumably acting because of threats to his family, chooses death over surrender when death holds no promise of saving his family, but surrender might.
The strong suit in WWE films is usually the martial arts scenes. The gunfights, car chases and pyrotechnics are typically less imaginative. TC2 is no exception, but the martial arts scenes are not impressive and there is too much reliance on gunplay. The film might be more effective if it played to the strengths of its actors.
A few incidents defy all logic and reason. A character fires a short burst with an assault rifle at another character standing a few feet away, but misses. A character suffers a "through- and-through" bullet wound from a .50 caliber BMG sniper rifle that not only fails to rip off his arm, but doesn't slow him down much. Two characters survive a fragmentation grenade that detonates a few feet away from them. Not only are they uninjured, but they can hear each other speak in normal voices afterward.
The story lacks a romantic angle. The only subplot concerns father-son love, which is a little ham-fisted. A similar subplot was handled much more effectively and efficiently in "Inception." Several attractive girls show interest in Tanner, but he never responds with much interest.
Technical aspects are generally passable. Lighting is a bit weak and the typical overdependence on jiggly-cam shots is evident, although not as obvious as in some other films. It takes time to set up a tripod, level out the bubbles, brace it with sandbags and choreograph the action with the camera movement. One can appreciate the simplicity and economy of Steadicam rigs. But films that rely extensively on jiggly-cam shots often feel like the director has asked the cameraman to cover the action as best as he can. The results often seem haphazard rather than planned and crafted. One of the scenes that does seem well crafted is a minor scene involving Tanner changing a tire. Another involves a lot of dirt.
Overall, the film is passable as a no-brainer action film. There are a few good shots, including one where Tanner camouflages himself, a slow-motion close-up of the effect of shock waves and the destruction of a flying object. The action is watchable, but uninspired. The characters do as well as can be expected with what they're given.
The film has a sort of half-baked theme about Tanner needing to follow though and the nature of accepting responsibility. But Tanner never has a plausible option not to continue to the conclusion. He is pushed along by outside forces. The characters who actually make moral choices are his father and two members of his team. In an early scene, a judge imposes an ultimatum which motivates Tanner, but that ultimatum is later abrogated by a character who doesn't have the authority to do so and offers a reward which would ordinarily be unavailable to somebody convicted of manslaughter.
The major problems lie in the script and direction. The script seems like it's about two re- writes short of complete and the direction seems slipshod, haphazard and unplanned. However, it squeezes in a lot of action, usually at a lively pace and the scenery looks nice.
If one can crank up ones willful suspension of disbelief to a moderately high level and sit back and enjoy the show, it's not a bad way to fritter away ninety minutes.