The hardest working man in Hollywood these days is none other than good old Nicolas Cage. Looking at his IMDb profile, Nick has filmed four movies this year, down a bit from his normal five to six films a year (darn COVID-19!). Jiu Jitsu is the first one out of the gate. Wally’s Wonderland (formally titled Willy’s Wonderland) is still filming.
Without spoiling too much of the film, the tale has a comet that nears the Earth every six years. While the comet is visible, a portal opens and allows an alien lifeform to come through it to fight the best of the best on the planet. This being also introduced Jiu-Jitsu to us mere mortals. This event has been happening for at least 2000 years.
The story revolves around Jake (Alain Moussi, Kickboxer: Vengeance), one of the nine fighters to challenge Brax. The problem is that Jake suffered a head injury at the start of the movie and can’t remember who he is, or why he is in Burma. Eventually, he discovers that he has the ability to fight and the other fighters recover Jake so they can finish the tournament. Time is not on their side, if they do not finish with Brax before the comet passes, it will remain on Earth and kill everyone.
The film also stars Marie Avgeropoulos (The 100), Tony Jaa (Ong Bak), Frank Grillo (Avengers: Endgame), Rick Yune (Alita: Battle Angel), and JuJu Chan (Wu Assassins).
Although his name and image are used greatly to promote this film, Nick does not have a lot of time on screen for this production. For what little time he is in the film, he makes the most of it and he looked like he had fun making it.
Although production notes state that for the movie he trained on jiu-jitsu under Royce Gracie, Wing Chun, Karate, and Jeet Kune Do, I question how much of his actual fighting skills were used. Based on the camera work during his several fight scenes, we see a lot of the stunt doubles back. It was fun seeing him doing flips, kicks and grapples with the alien.
Despite the character essentially being a crazy hermit, Cage toned down on his ‘crazy’ persona for this film. It was very similar to the Dennis Hopper stoner role in Apocalypse Now.
A lot of people are comparing it to Predator, and they would be correct. I would also add dashes of The Bourne Identity, Mortal Kombat, The Flash, and Hardcore Henry to the mix.
From the director of Kickboxer: Vengeance Dimitri Logothetis, it is based on the 2017 comic book of the same name by Logothetis and Jim McGrath. The two also share writing credits for the film.
The movie does have its problems however, there are some glaring continuity issues that should have been caught. A good chunk of the cast are MMA and stunt professionals, you are not going to be seeing Olivier quality acting in this movie.
Probably the biggest issue is some of the questionable camerawork. During the first action sequence, the film decides to switch into first-person shooter mode like Hardcore Henry. We see the fight from Jakes’ perspective as his hands punch soldiers in the face. A few times Jake is knocked to the ground and the camera stays where he fell and we continue watching the fight from where the camera fell. Then he will fall back into the camera and we resume FPS mode. It was a really odd choice and one I would not want to see again. Fortunately, it was only used in one fight sequence.
Unfortunately, there is another odd use of the camera that was done several times after. The director seems to like to see the action spin around 360. This was repeated way too many times and really added a cartoon aspect to the film that probably was not intended.
It may be nitpicking, but to me, these are the type of things that scream DTV quality and a few simple corrections could have elevated this movie.
- Bruce Willis was offered the role that went to Nick. Bruce had a three-picture deal with MoviePass (!) and was not able to film this, MoviePass went bankrupt in January.
- Cage wanted to be in a martial arts film as he is a big Bruce Lee fan.
- This is the first Hollywood production to be filmed in Cyprus.
Runtime: 1 hr 42 min (102 min)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39 : 1
Budget: $24-28 Million
The movie will be released today in select theatres and VOD.