Action stars fighting aliens? Sign me straight up!
Jiu Jitsu tells the story of an ancient order of jiu-jitsu fighters who, every six years upon the occurrence of a passing comet, join forces to battle an alien warrior.
The first half hour of this film is a seriously mixed bag of overdone, shaky and off-beat camera work, mixed with over the top hammy acting and repetitive jiu jitsu. What might be an impressive action sequence in the opening third is ruined by what you might (if you were being nice) call experimental or amateur camera work. It’s frankly a very disengaging and hard to watch opening that mesmerises in the worst possible way.
This is a film where the cast, on paper anyway, isn’t actually half bad. Following on, and frankly copying, directly from the film’s inspiration, a cast of reasonably recognisable action stars are assembled for this alien fight flick. Sadly, the lead for this film, Alain Moussi, is simply so wooden, bland and uncharismatic I simply can’t understand why he would be the headline star of this, or even any other film. Yes, he can kick high and he sort of looks the part, but seriously? Jiu must be kidding! Marrese Crump, JuJu Chan, Rick Yune, Tony Jaa, Marie Avgeropoulos and Frank Grillo all try to sell their mixed-bag parts, and are actually tolerably and fairly passable, but the films overall dialogue and the way it was shot has taken the food of promise and turned it to the brown stuff, without any enjoyment in between. Even Eddie Steeples, who has the wonderful honour of being the films comedy relief, delivers yet another reasonable effort, but sadly looks out of place in a film even he seems too good for.
As for Nicolas Cage, well, he provides some likeable freshness by showing up after the turgid opening half hour. I think even he could smell the bottom based aromas coming off this one a mile off and tries to oversell it as best he can. Cage absolutely loves being able to do the movies of his choosing these days, anything for a bit of dosh and a slice more diversity to his CV. This however, is another in a lengthening line of direct to on-demand/streaming films that continues to dilute his once-high stock. For as good as Cage is, his stuntman is even better. That’s the thing here, there’s some effort all round, but simply too many things wrong.
Co-written and directed by Dimitri Logothetis, the man behind the latest Kickboxer films, this film is just a badly produced mess. It’s a high value cast, with low value everything else. Filmed in, and backed by several Cypriot entities, the film seems to be well financed ($25 million budget) so it’s a real shame that the final product has turned out to be this poor. A good action cast, simply let down by almost everything on the production side.
There’s an abundance of oddness in this film that at least makes it laughably interesting. There are actually repeated action replays in a flowing film, weird chest cam scenes, vastly overused comic book page visual scenes for filler, billions of action camera spins plus plenty of repetitive ropey special effects. There’s one particular scene that really stands out – in fact it really grates with me. With the sun on the horizon and our cast walking in front of it, it aims to produce a beautifully cinematic scene but for some reason it becomes a hazy, squinty badly shot mess. It’s a scene that essentially sums the whole film up – opportunity and promise, turned to crap.
This is simply a Predator franchise rip-off. This time though, our alien villain, instead of being Stan Winston menacing, is uninspiring and simply looks like Jamie Foxx’s Electro got trapped inside a generically made exo-suit. For another worldly hunter killer, he is quite the abysmal shot too and the poor to inconsistent specials do nothing to show him as any threat.
If it wasn’t for the truly atrocious first half hour then Jiu Jitsu could be a sort of tolerable, even cult like, film. I often find myself puzzled by the rating of a film on IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes but there’s no such puzzling with this film. The first 30 minutes should be studied by film students on how to disengage an audience and make something marginally and potentially exciting, look like a complete mess.
Billed as a franchise opener, it certainly could be franchise able – if it was any good, original or inspiring. The odd thing is, I don’t actually feel as though I have wasted time watching this. It’s not good, and the first 30 minutes are a mess, but it sort of gets going and provides a slither of entertainment. Jiu Jitsu is a bit like a hastily eaten chocolate bar, you get the taste, but not enough satisfaction or enjoyment from it.
Jiu Jitsu is available in the UK on Digital HD on the 21st December and Blu-ray & DVD from 4th January, 2021.