I got the DVD from the library so there was no great investment on my part and really expected to stop it after 20 minutes. But it surprised me. Robert Mammone, as the tycoon sponsoring this internet viewing only battle royal to the death, has solid acting chops along with the always interesting to watch Rick Hoffman. Of the group of combatants, Manu Bennet and Dasi Ruz show real chemistry and Vinnie Jones is always believable as a murderous bastard.
Okay, the premise is simple as any action movie tends to be whether it's escaping aliens ("Predator," "Alien") or stopping the thing that will end the world ("The Rock," "Armagedon"). A rich, pompous, self absorbed tycoon buys convicted criminals from jails around the world, brings them to a small island and offers them freedom if they're the last one alive after 30 hours while he broadcasts on the internet for $49.95. To their ankle is strapped an explosive device that will trigger if they try to remove it.
What makes a story interesting is it's execution from casting, directing, cinematography, dialogue, etc. Every romance story is the same boy meets, girl, boy loses girl, boy and girl reunite in the end. Director Scott Wiper knows he's not making a Merchant Ivory film and so focuses on the compelling fight sequences, the question of who will be left, and how they are eliminated.
Now, I've read critiques about Austin's acting and I don't think these viewers get it. As the director states in the commentary, Austin, like other action heroes before him, has the confidence to do nothing. His range is limited and it plays to his advantage. Looking back on the Schwarzenegger Stallone era, does anybody remember them acting other than cool under fire? Clint Eastwood made a career out of squinting and teeth gritting. Look at your rappers supposedly turned "actors" like Ice-T, DMX, LL Cool J. Their entire range consists of going from snotty to snottier and back again. So Austin playing it tight and close only works for him and the role. He's the hero and viewers expect certain behavior from them. Other characters are used to portray the emotions of danger, fear and sadness that help us read the severity of the situation.
Now as far as the commentary on reality shows and internet viewership, and the lust for violence I'll leave it to the sociologists and more scholarly journals. Suffice to say, this is a good solid action flick, worth the rental price. So sit back, turn off your brain and enjoy.