2020, NR, 102 min. Directed by Dimitri Logothetis. Starring Nicolas Cage, Frank Grillo, Tony Jaa, Juju Chan, Alain Moussi, Rick Yune, Marie Avgeropoulos.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Nov. 20, 2020
Less a Nic Cage movie than a movie with an extended cameo by Nic Cage in a “finely crafted” paper hat (!), this Greek/Cypriot co-production mixes mediocre martial artistry with a sci-fi spin and ends up a puzzlement to both genres. Quoth the Cage: “You look puzzled. Are you puzzled? Because I’m puzzled.” Yeah Nic, right there with you, wherever you are.
Part Kickboxer (star Moussi was the driving force behind the rebooting of that particular franchise) by way of The Bourne Identity and a dash of Predator, the story opens with amnesiac super soldier Jake Barnes (Moussi) evading someone or something only to splash land in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Myanmar. He’s quickly picked up by a fisherman then passed on to a U.S. Army Base where Intelligence Officer Myra (Avgeropolous) struggles to figure out who this badass is and who he may be working for. After a mishmash of confounding exposition regarding a meteor that’s appeared overhead, the films kicks into high gear with the sudden appearance of Ong Bak superstar Jaa, as mysterious Muay Thai master Kueng. The pair bust out of the U.S. base and hit the jungle where then meet up with quartet of equally pugilistic super soldiers who definitely don’t have amnesia because they know all about the still-foggy Jake and his mission in life. Turns out that meteor carries Brax, an alien who cruises by earth every six years to challenge the planet’s greatest warrior, i.e. Jake. Fisticuffs-fu ensues but Jiu Jitsu’s weakest link may be its lousy fight choreography which is shot wide and low with stunt doubles who seem like they could really use a good nap.
The humanoid Brax is about as threatening as Space Ghost’s Adult Swim-era antagonist Brak but with fewer one-liners and the whole intergalactic dust-up ends up being about as memorable as that one Kickboxer sequel you can never quite remember. Cage’s role is brief but typically antic as he channel Dennis Hopper’s gonzo photog from Apocalypse Now. To paraphrase that inimitable character, “What are they going to say about Jiu Jitsu? Are they going to say it was a wise movie? That it had a plot? That it was a badass actioner worthy of your time? Bullshit, man!” Right on, brother.
Jiu Jitsu is available on VOD now.