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  Jiu Jitsu In Your Face From Outer Space
Year: 2020
Director: Dimitri Logothetis
Stars: Alain Moussi, Nicolas Cage, Tony Jaa, Rick Yune, Frank Grillo, JuJu Chan, Marie Avgeropoulos, Eddie Steeples, Ryan Tarran, Dan Rizzuto, Rigan Machado, Jack Kingsley, Marrese Crump, John D. Hickman, Tommy Walker, Raymond Pinharry, Mary Makariou
Genre: Action, Martial Arts, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: There is a comet that passes by the Planet Earth every six years, but what it brings with it should concern the entire human race. One man, Jake (Alain Moussi), was concerned, but thanks to an escape attempt from flying blades in a jungle that saw him jumping off a cliff, he has lost his memory after a bump on the head from a rock under the sea, and is discovered by the mysterious Wylie (Nicolas Cage) floating in the water. His body is attended to by fisherfolk who are well aware of what is actually out there and what its purpose is, but they speak a different language to Jake - it will take him some time to realise he is the saviour of the world!

In case you were in any doubt this was based on a comic book, penned by its director Dimitri Logothetis and his co-writer Jim McGrath, they helpfully included comic panel-style interstitials to underline the fact that, eh, maybe you should not be taking it with the utmost seriousness, and really it was pure pulp fiction from beginning to end. Indeed, it came across as if it was the fantasy of an adolescent boy - not that kind of fantasy, but one where a space alien arrives on Earth to battle our greatest champion, and there were all sorts of overcomplicated backstory that needed Nic Cage, of all people, to fill us in on, all while dressed as Dennis Hopper from Apocalypse Now.

There were other stars here too, as Logothetis adopted the approach that had served him in his Kickboxer sequels where bigger names were arranged around a less well-known star who would carry the story and be a kind of centre of this solar system of celebrities in the martial arts world. Before you scoffed, what kind of martial arts did Cage know? Be aware that he had studied some disciplines as per his hero Bruce Lee and if he was not anywhere near that level of ability, he did know some moves. That said, Cage did relent to using a stuntman quite often when it was his turn to step up and battle either Jake or the space alien, which was named Brax (Ryan Tarran).

Not Brak, sci-fi cartoon fans, though the mind would truly boggle to see Cage fight him, but really we were in kung fu tournament mode for much of the running time, not unlike the Kickboxer series the director had adopted as his own. Bulking out the cast were genuinely talented combatants like Tony Jaa, Rick Yune and JuJu Chan who added a dose of energy to the proceedings, as did Moussi, who if he had not been hired for his acting skills, his experience as a stuntman meant he could assuredly handle himself in hand to hand combat, and had obviously been hitting the gym to keep in tremendous shape. This made a difference, as no matter how daft this became, it was sufficiently serious about delivering the action to make up for its straight-faced silliness elsewhere - or if you prefer, enhanced its silliness elsewhere.

Many would not be here to watch the martial artists in motion, but to see what Cage was getting up to, and he was as eccentric as his popular image allowed on the screen (reputedly he was only on the Cyprus set for three days, but be made his impression). Taking that as a given, and being aware he was not really the lead actor, what you would find most diverting was Logothetis' ambitions, where he would suddenly take it upon himself to experiment. Seeing as how there was a very computer game construction to Jiu Jitsu, which did not include as much Jiu Jitsu as that title implied, it was only right that we should get a sequence were Jaa was ploughing through some baddies in one extended shot, then we switched to Jake's point of view as he took on more baddies, occasionally seeing him jump forward to apply the beatings, then back to his POV again. Business like that was actually pretty energising, and though there were plenty of action setpieces, you kind of wished the director had pursued that even further. As it was, as Predator-inspired martial arts efforts went, it definitely had its moments.

[Signature Entertainment presents Jiu Jitsu on Digital HD 21st December and Blu-ray & DVD 4th January.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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