Ah the joys of Wrestling. The golden age (there was one trust me) has long since gone, and many of the sport's biggest stars are looking to diversify their careers in anticipation of the bubble bursting. Sports Entertainment (WWE to most) has been usurped by the high profile and brutal world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and the crowd pleasing antics of grown men grappling in spandex seems particularly antiquated now.
We’ve already seen Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson successfully transform himself into a legitimate actor and arguably his greatest rival is now also making a big screen outing. Steve Austin does come across as a smart cookie, and having already performed a radical career change in the ring (the muscular, hard-drinking ‘redneck’ was once a slight technical athlete) he might just pull off this transition. Jack Conrad (Austin) is on death row in a Central American hellhole. Bought by a ruthless television producer he is plumbed straight into his newest venture, an online ‘gameshow’ where survival is literally the name of the game. Alongside various other murders and criminals, Conrad must get off the island and clear his name. Unfortunately, one of the contestants (McStarley, played by Jones) is receiving help from the organisers and his rabid instincts come to the fore in devastating fashion. As the authorities are alerted to the show the net closes in and its just a question of who will be left standing at the end.
If the plot sounds like a sub Running Man outline then that’s because it is. The central premise is a genuinely interesting one, is this the inevitable outcome of all the extreme reality TV shows that we (the audience) are desperate to see? The film pulls few punches in the selection of its characters. Vinnie Jones’s McStarley in particular is an unrepentant predator who kills and abuses at random. The set-up of the film is therefore one that will get you excited; it’s unfortunately the execution of the most straightforward elements that let the film down. The action constantly falls flat, and what should have been an almighty Battle Royal on the island winds up looking like a Saturday afternoon wrestling match from the 1980’s broadcast live from a town hall in rainy Hull.
The acting is fine. Sure, Vinnie is OTT but what do you expect? Nathan Jones is criminally underused though, the massive man-mountain from the Tony Jaa masterpiece Tom Yum Goong has proven he can do the high-octane stunts and fight scenes, and yet no one lets him unleash his best moves. Even Austin rarely appears to break a sweat, and this is a Tropical Island remember. The thing is the leading man comes across and a solid, likeable and genuine good guy, much like his in ring persona he may be a little rough at the moment, but given time audiences could warm to him.