Despite that description, though, the movie mostly falls flat.
War hero Jake Barnes (Alain Moussi) is injured fighting something in Myanmar and falls into the sea. He’s rescued and turned over to the US Military, but it is revealed he now has amnesia. Myra (Marie Avgeropoulos), an Army Intelligence officer, tries to interrogate him but mostly ends up failing. He’s rescued by Keung (Tony Jaa), a master martial artist. It turns out that Jake is a member of a group of warriors who all practice the martial art of Jiu Jitsu, which was apparently taught to humans by an alien warrior. Now, every six years, an alien champion named Brax (Ryan Tarran) challenges a number of champions in combat. If the humans win, Earth survives. If not, well, that’s all she wrote. Jake is assisted by teammates Keung, Carmen (JuJu Chan), Harrigan (Frank Grillo), and Wylie (Nicolas Cage). Unfortunately, what Jake mostly forgot is that he was Earth’s best hope, and he needs to remember that before Brax takes him down.
This movie should be amazing. It’s a movie where an alien that usually cloaks itself while hunting (Predator) challenges a number of humans to a martial arts tournament (Mortal Kombat) for the right to invade Earth (also Mortal Kombat) with Nicolas (not Johnny) Cage and Frank Grillo. Nicolas Cage plays a near-insane older martial arts master, something that should be amazing on its own. In fairness, I enjoyed most of the scenes with Cage, because, whether you like him or hate him, he’s a hell of a presence. Unfortunately, he’s criminally underused here, probably because, and I’m speculating a bit, they could only afford to have him on set for a week or so.
The actual film itself has a lot of great martial arts sequences, but it’s tough because you have to suspend the disbelief A) that these people can martial arts their way past machine guns, B) that the alien created Jiu Jitsu, C) that the alien’s technology is designed for a “fair fight,” and D) that the people delivering the lines in this movie sincerely believe A, B, and C. It’s not even that these are bad performers, it’s that it’s really hard to try and describe this movie sincerely. Even if you were undergoing these events, you probably wouldn’t react like any of the characters do, aside from maybe Nicolas Cage, who seems to be completely aware of how ridiculous this set-up is.
The cinematography is okay during some of the fights, but it still seems to be incapable of properly helping the audience recognize that many of these people are really, really good at what they’re doing. JuJu Chan (from Wu Assassins) and Tony Jaa (of Ong-Bak fame) are both massively underused. When you have people who can really do top-level martial arts movies and shows, you should probably not reduce them to second-string characters.
Overall, sadly, this isn’t a great movie. If you really like Nic Cage, maybe watch just his scenes.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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