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‘Jiu Jitsu’ (review)

Produced by Martin Barab, Chris Economides
Screenplay by Dimitri Logothetis, James McGrath
Directed by Dimitri Logothetis
Starring Alain Moussi, Frank Grillo,
JuJu Chan, Tony Jaa, Nicolas Cage


Action/science fiction hybrid stars a handful of action stalwarts and newbies, as well as a grounded Frank Grillo and an appealingly unhinged Nicolas Cage.

The film is basically a Predator riff, with a group of martial artists standing in for that film’s elite military unit.

With proven action stars like Alain Moussi, Rick Yune, JuJu Chan and especially Tony Jaa on hand, Jiu Jitsu promised to be a fun ride.

Throw in some Grillo and Cage, and I’m on board for a good time.

Alas, twas not to be, for the most part.

Jiu Jitsu s surprisingly sloppy from the start, with uninspired writing and direction combined with stilted and lackadaisical fight choreography and staging, creating an unfortunately soporific atmosphere.

It should be a cinematic crime making Jaa’s fight scenes so dull, but director Dimitri Logothetis has done just that.

Jaa has never had the charisma of Bruce Lee, Jet Li or Jackie Chan, but holy crap can he fight. The centerpiece fight/chase scene from Jaa’s Ong Bak had my jaw on the floor.

Here, his scenes – and frankly, all of the action scenes of which, it must be said, there are many – come across as listless.

There are many other film crimes on display as well.

There are Creepshow-like comic book inspired animated sequences that have no real place here.

Color-coded subtitles seemed designed to engage slow-learning four-year-olds.

The camerawork is flat-out obnoxious, with the frame constantly jittering to the point of extreme irritation. Also, there’s a lengthy fight shot almost exclusively from real-time POV that completely falls flat.

The score is cheap and unimaginative.

During the shootouts, no one can hit the broad side of a barn.

The plot is truly stupid and unengaging, and Moussi is hardly a commanding lead (to be utterly fair, he may develop into a decent action star, but this film does him no favors).

There is some good news.

The cast tries. Grillo brings his usual street savvy, no-BS attitude which elevates the limited time he is onscreen.

And it bears mention that Cage is a lot of fun here. He’s absolutely a supporting player, but he tears into his small role.

Playing a formerly great martial artist who has lived alone in the jungle for a bit too long, Cage seems to be doing an entertaining variation on Dennis Hopper’s turn in Apocalypse Now (a film directed by Cage’s uncle, natch).

Action completists and Cage fans will find enough here to justify a watch. Casual viewers should beware.

Jiu Jitsu is playing in theaters, On Demand and Digital HD



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