Martin (Pat Healy) gets a job at a record company complete with its own The Office-esque quirky characters: a Tony Robbins-esque boss trying to motivate his employees; a meek guy in a suit just trying to play by the rules; and finally Martin’s partner Clarence (Kene Holliday) an enthusiastic guy who raves about things as mundane as coffee. The job is to sign new artists who can make the company and the agents a fortune. However it requires a financial investment on the artists' part so the job really is to get the money from the aspiring artist. After learning the methods Martin and Clarence start auditioning acts hitting the road looking for more clients much to the chagrin of Martin’s wife (Rebecca Mader). When they discover an actual talent Martin shares the investment fee which obviously makes him vulnerable to the company's scheme. There are a few random inappropriate moments--as well as some pretty bad music acts--which provides socially awkward humor but none of this is laugh-out-loud material. The cast fully commit to this little film with fully realized performances. Healy is the working stiff who doesn’t question the bigger picture. Martin has issues with his wife he doesn't even recognize or articulate; he’s just all about maintaining the status quo. Holliday on the other hand is the more boisterous character. His Clarence is eccentric and the job allows his personality to focus on something. Some of Clarence’s freak-outs are a little bit too convenient as if the film is trying too hard for the laugh. Still Healy and Holliday as their characters clearly become more comfortable with each other as the film progresses showing the natural evolution of a partnership. Mader plays the ever-suffering spouse a truly supportive partner who's getting left out. You sympathize with her. Meanwhile the supporting players totally set up the world of the film especially John Baker as the boys' boss the ultimate salesman commanding his subordinates to do what he says. For his first feature director Craig Zobel has all the basics down. He cuts scenes together smoothly but some of the camera work tries to take advantage of handheld when it's really not necessary. Still it's never egregiously distracting. Zobel also gets the performances out of his actors. They all portray the characters the film designs. Where Great World of Sound falters is on how repetitive it is as the action goes through the rigmarole of auditioning bad singers and making the same pitch over and over. If the acts or the sales pitches were hilarious it would be perfectly fine to spend the whole movie there but ultimately they are just versions of the same idea. And the music is drab and monotonous probably on purpose but it gets irritating as the film progresses. Zobel does show potential however—we should watch out for his next effort.
A billionaire TV producer (Robert Mammone) has a great idea for a reality show that he wants to put on the Internet and his goal is to beat the 40 million Super Bowl audience. He has compiled a crack team of young hip and immoral tech geeks directed by Goldman (Rick Hoffman) and puts cameras throughout a remote island where former prisoners are going to kill each other while audiences watch after shelling out the pay-per-view fee. The location is done on a remote secret island and the death row prisoners are bought from prisons around the world with the promise that the survivor gets to walk free. Among the contestants are a rogue Aussie named McStarley (Vinnie Jones) a martial arts expert (Masa Yamaguchi) a husband-and-wife team (Manu Bennett and Dasi Ruz) a monstrous killer who doesn't do much more than grunt (Nathan Jones) and others known only as The Italian The German and other monikers quickly forgotten. Enter the sole American Jack Conrad (Steve Austin) who's in a South American prison for some obscure reason and is recognized on TV by his wife (Madeleine West) who tries to save him. However it looks like Conrad is pretty good at helping himself. Don't expect the acting to be much more evolved than what could be seen among the World Wrestling Entertainment superstars especially since many of them were plucked from the ring to star in this morality tale. But Austin (who had in a strong cameo in Adam Sandler's Longest Yard) proves he has a sense of humor as well as strength. Vinnie Jones is ridiculously over-the-top as the Aussie who's the hand-picked winner of this game shown setting up alliances Survivor style only to turn on them later. The supporting cast are refreshingly entertaining but one-note caricatures both in the contest and running the contest. It's obvious that they aren't going to be around long but the actors do milk their tiny roles for every bit of attention they can get. Rick Hoffman as the brilliant camera mastermind of the project is both whiny sniveling and mean-spirited so when he joins some of the rest of the crew and suddenly develops a backbone and a conscience he ends up stealing the movie with his acerbic humor. But it's the understated American hero Conrad who holds a mirror up to the people who like to watch this stuff. Director Scott Wiper who co-wrote this story has also acted in similar movies like this (A Better Way to Die). It’s obvious he knows what he’s doing with The Condemned and develops a sense of voyeuristic angst like those of us who can't keep our eyes off a train wreck. Like the darkly subversive Belgian film Man Bites Dog the camera crew remains safely distant and remote until the reality directly involves them. Then the crew wonders "What the hell are we doing?" while the audience might be thinking "What the hell are we watching?" Much like Series 7: The Contenders Rollerball and other movies which show a dark and bloody near future this kind of reality doesn't seem too far away and maybe proves that movies which provide this type of gladiator spectacle target a certain segment of the human population who need to blow off steam.