Jiu Jitsu

  • 05 Dec - 11 Dec, 2020
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Alain Moussi, a lean, reasonably handsome martial artist, plays an amnesiac who is fished, Jason Bourne-style, out of the sea off the coast of Burma. Badly wounded, he's stitched up by local villagers before being brought to a US Army base whose soldiers weren't hired for their acting chops.

Interrogators there think he's a plutonium smuggler. But before they can decide to believe his "I don't remember who I am" routine, a mysterious fighter, played by Tony Jaa, comes to rescue Moussi from captivity.

Though the first-person gimmick is thankfully a one-off for this scene, the game-like pacing is not. Viewers find themselves in a string of overlong fight sequences whose duration rarely seems determined by the needs of the plot.

In between the fights and chases come cutscene-like blips of exposition, in which we learn that Moussi's character is Jake, the leader of a team with a very important job: Every six years, a comet passes Earth, opening a portal through which a "warrior spirit" (actually an alien called Brax) appears. Centuries ago, this warrior actually introduced Earthlings to the fighting styles they employ here – seemingly so he'd have something to do whenever an intergalactic portal brought him to town – and if Jake doesn't kick his butt before the portal closes, Brax will be stuck here to wreak havoc all over the planet.

Some of this story comes from Cage's Wylie, who isn't part of Jake's team but has been around the block with Brax. Sometimes seeming to borrow from Dennis Hopper's performance in Apocalypse Now, Cage doesn't access his most unhinged energies. But he's just off-kilter enough to spice up an otherwise forgettable scenario that borrows pieces from Predator, The Highlander and assorted other genre pics without deriving any fun from them. Cage isn't as underused as costar Frank Grillo, but a few witty lines from him would've gone a long way.

Throughout, FX teams were evidently not asked to make action look convincing. But how much can you expect of a film whose opening scene features what looks like a wad of steel wool hurtling through space toward our imperiled planet?

– Compilation