It seems that using mixed martial arts in films is the new “it” in action films. With films like Never Back Down and the Hong Kong hits SPL and Flash Point, the use of MMA seems like a new fad come 2009. To take advantage of that is Hector Echavarria and his first effort is ultimately a mixed bag, which falls slightly below average.
MMA champion Diego Carter has successfully defended his title and soon finds himself in a whole new world. At a nightclub, he meets a mysterious woman, Sandra, who takes him to a secluded place where an illegal tournament is held. There, Diego becomes intrigued and is set up by the tournament’s promoter, Seifer, to compete and earn a spot in the tournament.
The prize for the winners of the tournament is a young lady to spend the night with. While Diego eventually falls for Sandra, who is Seifer’s girlfriend, he soon learns that the tournament is not all it is cracked up to be. He learns that Seifer, a Russian-born mobster and martial arts champion himself, is using the tournament to combine his taste of blood and his running a prostitution ring. When Sandra and another young woman, Monique, are kidnapped by Seifer to lure Diego after Seifer kills Monique’s boyfriend and fellow MMA fighter Stone, Diego relies on the help of some of his fellow fighters in an all-out rescue mission.
Argentinian-born martial artist Hector Echavarria did a lot with this film. He plays the lead character, came up with the story, produced, directed, and choreographed the film’s action sequences. However, seeing the film’s promotion, Echavarria’s main co-stars consists of some of the top fighters from the Ultimate Fighting Championship and even StrikeForce to name a few. In some major supporting roles are Georges St. Pierre, B.J. Penn, and Heath Herring. Despite being on the poster, Quentin Jackson is only in one scene. Patrick Kilpatrick, a veteran villain actor, always tends to be above average and this film makes no exception. He even serves as one of the film’s producers.
So where does the film go wrong? Well, to begin with, the whole “MMA meets prostitution ring” angle could have worked, yet the film borderlines with pretty much a softcore erotic thriller as there are some pretty explicit sex scenes. They could have just toned that part down, then it would have been more like watching an action film. Thankfully, with his subsequent MMA films, he toned down a bit on the eroticism and focused more on the story, eventually wiping all of the eroticism out for his what can be his best MMA film, Chavez: Cage of Glory.
How do the action sequences fare out? Well, while for an attempt at bringing MMA to the screen, Echavarria gets an A for effort. However, there are a few technical flaws including some of the issues that plague martial arts action on films. Shaky cam and extreme close-ups for certain impact shots. However, for the first time using MMA on screen, Echavarria did try his best and it seems like with the rest of his films, he has begun to improve with the technical aspect of filming fight scenes.
This reviewer first trashed Never Surrender upon first viewing in 2009. However, these films do deserve a second chance and after watching the film again, Never Surrender is a decent first attempt for Hector Echavarria doing a MMA film. This is perhaps the prototype for what would be Echavarria’s MMA film phase.
WFG RATING: C-
A Grindstone Entertainment production in association with Tapout. Director: Hector Echavarria. Producers: Hector Echavarria, Erick Geisler, Ken Schwenker, Patrick Kilpatrick, and Curtis Petersen. Writers: Hector Echavarria and David Storey. Cinematography: Curtis Petersen. Editing: Eamon Glennon.
Cast: Hector Echavarria, Patrick Kilpatrick, James Russo, Georges St-Pierre, Heath Herring, B.J. Penn, Anderson Silva, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Silvia Koys, Sabrina Machado, Cristina N. Rose, Damian Perkins, Eamon Glennon, Gunter Schlierkamp.