There’s always a sense of foreboding when we hear about any film starring Nicolas Cage because it’s usually going to feature a performance of such unrestrained insanity that the crew had to be issued with tazers. Even when he manages to rein it in as per Colour out of Space there’s a feeling that his meds are going to wear off any moment. However though Jiu Jitsu has him writ large on the poster whereas actually this is one of those films where he pops in to shoot his handful of scenes before he’s put back in his strait jacket. Instead the lead is Alain Moussi a prolific stuntman with credits that include a couple of X-Men films and Suicide Squad (see the UK premiere with the stars here). Increasingly his agent has landed him acting roles in a load of films…. well we say acting….. when you see that several are in the Kickboxer franchise there’s a sense that it may be a while before we see him at the National Theatre.
Jiu Jitsu has him playing Jake who we first meet running through the jungle from an unseen terror flinging deadly razor bladed frisbees at him that are of the bargain basement CGI dept before he falls off a cliff into the sea, is rescued by an oriental fisherman who dumps him at some make shift US military base. Interrogated by the easy on the eye Myra (Marie Avgeropoulos) he manages to escape after the first of many interminable and anaemic punch ups with several soldiers fresh out of Colin’s College of Cut price Cock up artists. It’s only after forty minutes of chases and fisticuffs and the appearance of a some camouflage alien fighter that’s taken its inspiration from Predator that we have Nicolas Cage pop up as some mad hermit type. With the pair having an occasional bit of sparring pausing only for Cage’s stunt man double to take over he informs Jake that every six years an ancient order of Jiu-Jitsu fighters join forces for a Battle Royale with a race of aliens that seem to have escaped from an X-Box game and have about as much command on screen as a ‘Keep of the Grass’ sign.
This is the latest from writer director Dimitri Logothetis who has a number of TV credits to his name but has spent the last few years making low budget punch ups. Financing films is a notoriously difficult dark art and you can’t take away the enthusiasm that he clearly invests in making what are ultimately straight to DVD films and Jiu Jitsu is no different. He’s got on board several notable names in this type of genre with Rick Yune, Tony Jaa and Frank Grillo and with Nicolas Cage to sell the title internationally but is increasingly becoming a flag to gossip columnists that he’s probably got an urgent tax bill that needs paying.
Aimed squarely at fight fans the presence of a stuntman in the lead role should make these sequences exhilarating. Instead they serve to pad out the film with Logothetis using some odd point-of- view moments that make it like a 1st person Playstation game. Add to this a swooshing sound effect for every arm swing or high kick as well as copious slo-mo to cover up what are obviously pulled punches and it all adds up to an appreciation for the sequences in films such as The Raid and Extraction. Logothetis does have a few flourishes from extreme high angles to strapping his camera to the actors to using comic book frames to connect scenes but this is strictly for a night when any critical faculties are impaired by strong lager.
Here’s the Jiu Jitsu trailer……..
Jiu Jitsu is on Digital HD 21st December and Blu-ray & DVD 4th January 2021