Jiu Jitsu (2020)

Nicolas Cage stars in "Jiu Jitsu" (Image: Highland Film Group)

Review

JIU JITSU (2020)

Alain Moussi, Frank Grillo, Rick Yune, Marie Avgeropoulos, Juju Chan, Tony Jaa, Nicolas Cage, James P. Bennett

Directed by Dimitri Logothetis

Some people are going to look at this film as a hot mess but remember writer-director Dimitri Logothetis is the guy that brought us the 80s horror flick “Slaughterhouse Rock” about college dudes battling a ghost on Alcatraz who killed a rock band led by Toni Basil (of “Hey Mickey” fame) who does a dance number in the film. Now that I’ve put it into perspective, “Jiu Jitsu” is a low-grade “Predator” meets “Mortal Kombat” meets “Stargate” with Nicolas Cage as a paper-hat-wearing hermit and martial artist Tony Jaa as a warrior who must have traveled back in time to raid Chess King for his wardrobe. What’s not to love?

Every six years a comet passes over the Earth that causes a portal to open where a visitor from a distant galaxy comes to take on our best Jiu Jitsu fighters. According to Wylie the hermit (Nicolas Cage), the Predator knock-off is a “poet warrior in the sci-fi sense” known as (insert dramatic pause) “The Spaceman.” Cage, who loves to channel other actors and films while creating his memorable performances, is deep in Dennis Hopper “Apocalypse Now”-mode twisting lines from the war epic while making hats out of newspapers. Too bad he chose not to school us in math with more Hopper dialogue including the fitting “You can't go out into space, you know, without, like, you know, uh, with fractions - what are you going to land on - one-quarter, three-eighths?”

Logothetis takes the star of his rebooted “Kickboxer” films, Alain Moussi, to play the film’s hero who is about as threatening as Timothée Chalamet, I’m sure “The Spaceman” was thinking “I’ve got this.” And speaking of our alien combatant, he may not be the best his galaxy has to offer as his hit ratio is 2 out of 100 Chinese stars thrown.

Tough guy Frank Grillo, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu martial artist who you may remember from the Marvel universe (Brock Rumlow) is always fun to watch, especially when he’s playing the villain, and the film features Tony Jaa (from “Ong Bak” fame), Juju Chan (dubbed the “female Bruce Lee” by her fans), and Rick Yune (“The Man with the Iron Fists”) to keep us entertained with a healthy dose of martial arts.

Obviously, Dimitri Logothetis has a sense of humor and since I found the film so amusing, I must have been in on the joke. “Jiu Jitsu” is a wonky knockoff of “Predator” that should have followed the same formula as 1988’s “Slaughterhouse Rock” by incorporating another one-hit-wonder artist in a cameo, possibly Psy doing a “Gangnam Style” dance number. If you’re looking for great science fiction and thrilling martial arts, keep looking.

(2 stars)

Now showing in theaters and available on-Demand

Joe Friar is a member of the Critics Choice Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. A lifelong fan of cinema, he co-founded the Victoria Film Society, Frels Fright Fest, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic. 

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Joe Friar is a member of the Critics Choice Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. A lifelong fan of cinema, he co-founded the Victoria Film Society, Frels Fright Fest, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.

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