'Jiu Jitsu' - Movie Review

As a fan of martial arts movies, I'm thoroughly familiar with stupid plots accompanied by bad acting. All I'm looking for is good fighting, anything else is a bonus. So when I saw a movie starring Nicolas Cage, Alain Moussi, Tony Jaa, and Frank Grillo ... that says "cheesy acting and more than enough money and physical talent to have good action." Grillo has made a number of grade B action movies: the cheesy, ludicrous, and entertaining "Beyond Skyline" particularly comes to mind. Jaa's first couple movies showed a man even more acrobatic than Jackie Chan. Moussi's acting is poor, and he's anonymously rugged looking without much charisma, but he's a really good martial artist. So I set my hopes too high.

You're welcome to consider my review suspect: I watched about half the movie at 2x.

The effects are ... bad. Not terrible, but noticeably poor. I can live with that, just get me to the cool fighting. And that's where this movie falls down completely. The fight choreography sucks. It's not over-edited - this is a common crime in low budget martial arts films where they're constantly cutting away just as someone is about to be struck, or because someone muffed a kick or landing so we see the take-off and landing, but not the whole execution. That's not the problem, except during Cage's fights: they very clearly switch between Cage for the close-ups and a stunt man for the acrobatics. And there's no shortage of fights. No, the problem is that almost every blow stops noticeably short of its target, and yet the target reacts, flies backwards, whatever. Jaa and Moussi (and very likely Grillo) are capable of far better than this: I can only assume that they simply under-rehearsed the fights to save money.

I got the crap dialogue, bad logic, and silly plotting I expected. But there was no redemption in the fights. An all-round terrible movie.

One bizarre side-note: this was clearly filmed at least partly on location on Bagan, Myanmar - and they even mention that they're in Myanmar, and have Burmese speakers. Bagan has more temples per square kilometre than any other place on the planet and it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site that very few people have visited because Myanmar remains an uncommon destination (a repressive government doesn't help).