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Jiu Jitsu #MovieReview

Every six years, an ancient order of jiu-jitsu fighters joins forces to battle a vicious race of alien invaders. But when a celebrated war hero goes down in defeat, the fate of the planet and mankind hangs in the balance.

Release Date: 2020 | Runtime: 1hr 42min | Genre: Sci-Fi Action | Source: Purchased

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Jiu Jitsu Review

Jiu Jitsu is pitched as a martial arts movie where Nicolas Cage fights an alien. There are two kinds of people in this world. There are those who hear that concept and say “wow Cage keeps turning out shit huh? No thanks!” Then there are those who say “fuck yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees!” Naturally I was in the latter camp. You can’t tell me it’s not possible to make an actual good (not ironically good) movie with that premise. I don’t want to see the “so bad it’s good” version of this story. I want to see the “so good it’s fucking great” version of this story. While this one has its moments, it’s unfortunately not quite the Cage vs Alien movie we deserve.

The plot is both super simple and weirdly complicated. Every six years a comet passes over the Earth which leads to a portal opening in a temple. Out of the portal comes an alien dude named Brax who wants nothing more than a dope fight. He wants to take on Earth’s greatest challengers, which clearly means they have Mortal Kombat on whatever planet he’s from. If he doesn’t get a dope fight, he will murder our entire planet. The nice thing though is that Brax doesn’t need you to win to get passed the whole planet murder thing. So long as you fight with honour, he’s cool with that. He will still kill just you, but he will leave the rest of us alone. Oh and he also wants nine people. I’m not sure how we learned these rules or how our fighters are selected so we’ll have to wait for the prequel I guess.

Our lead character Jake (Alain Moussi) has amnesia at the start of the movie which is a very helpful plot device where everyone else can explain things to him in a way that feels sort of natural. Moussi is one of my biggest issues with the movie. He’s clearly here because he’s a martial artist and not an actor but even still, this guy is real, real bland. It doesn’t help that he is surrounded by the likes of Frank Grillo and Tony Jaa, actors who are great martial artists but still have charisma. Moussi is a black hole of personality and it’s hard not to wish almost anyone else here was the star instead.

Cage is both in the movie more than I expected and not enough. He is the wise master who says a bunch of cryptic shit and guides our hero. However, because it’s a Cage character he also brags about how good he is at making hats out of newspaper. Cage is pretty restrained but its sure fun to see him swap out with a stunt double who does a bunch of sick flips and shit.  Say what you will about Cage’s movie choices, but he never half asses it and is clearly enjoying being in a martial arts film.

Jiu Jitsu starts strong with an action packed opening half hour that oddly enough does not feature the alien at all. Jaa gets a very impressive one take fight sequence and the action almost never stops. Once the alien shows up things should get even better, but I was surprised to find that’s when my interest started waning. I started to become a bit numb to everything. There is no shortage of action but at 102 minutes, it starts to get a little repetitive. There’s some great choreography and I’m glad the editing isn’t a bunch of quick cuts, but once the alien faces off against his third or fourth opponent in the same jungle environment, I was checking out. My mind started to wander to questions like why are they fighting him one on one instead of as a group? How come the alien gets to use a bunch of insane space technology while also so insistence on everyone else fighting with honour? And then it was over. The action we get is fine but it could have used some variety, especially when there’s a god damn martial arts alien on the loose!

I’m a bit surprised at the wide spread hatred Jiu Jitsu is receiving online. It currently has a 2.9 IMDb rating and a 1.9 on Letterboxd. I’m not saying those opinions are invalid but those ratings seem like they should be reserved for the worst of the worst. I found this to be a standard low-budget action movie that doesn’t do enough to make good on an insane premise. It’s a solid Sunday afternoon movie but those of us hoping for a truly great martial arts alien movie will have to wait a little longer.

Published inMovie Reviews

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