Mixed martial arts outlet Tapout unleashes this film, with a cast that includes Danny Trejo, Rudy Youngblood, and MMA champion Michael “The Count” Bisping. Much like Tapout’s Circle of Pain, the film improves on story and cuts down majorly on the gratuitous nudity that plagues their first films.
The story focuses on Brandon, a young street fighter who learns that his brother has been planning a major score before deciding to go straight. The next morning, Brandon’s brother is found dead and Brandon soon finds himself in hot water with local mob boss Gino Ganz. Brandon’s brother owed $60,000 and Brandon has a week to pay up for find himself dead. Deciding he must skip town, Brandon heads towards the small town where his wheelchair-bound father lives.
Brandon finds work at a local construction site and learns that during the nighttime, there are underground cage fights which the townsfolk enjoy. During a party in his first night in town, Brandon meets Erin and runs afoul of her brother Victor, who is one of the local and most respected cage fighters. The following night, Brandon learns that a former champion, Drake Colby, is competing and considers him an idol. When Brandon stops a gunman from robbing Drake after the fights, a new bond is formed. When Drake learns of Brandon’s situation, he decides to help Brandon by setting up local street fights so that the young fighter can pay back his brother’s debt. However, Brandon soon learns that he may have more than he bargained for when his relationship with Erin results in Victor causing problems.
The mixed martial arts film has been truly a mixed bag as of late. While the first few titles in Tapout’s line starred Argentinian martial arts expert Hector Echavarria, they were more in the vein of half-martial arts action film, half-softcore erotica. They were for the most part misfires that were reminiscent of those cheapie 70’s B-action films from the Philippines. A Tapout film released the same year, Circle of Pain, was a vast improvement by focusing more on the story and having better edited fight scenes. So how does Beatdown rank?
Beatdown is without a doubt on the same level as Circle of Pain, with its focus on the story. What makes it more interesting is the cast involved in the film. Rudy Youngblood, best known for his lead role in Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, plays Brandon, the young street fighter whose world comes crumbling down around him when his brother is killed. He finds himself at odds with a local mobster and then, his own father while he tries to find a way to pay off his brother’s debt. Danny Trejo does a great job as Brandon’s father. Trejo may seem like a preacher with all his religious sayings, but he truly brings out a performance that helps drive the film and shows Brandon that life may not be fair, but only they can work through the pain in any way possible.
Much like the previous Tapout films, a group of mixed martial arts fighters head the supporting cast. This time, making his film debut is British-based UFC fighter Michael Bisping, who plays a former champion who feels a bond towards Brandon and soon becomes a manager of sorts for the young fighter. Bisping is not too bad in his first film, even getting in on one fight against current WWE superstar and former MMA fighter Bobby Lashley. The big surprise comes in the form of Eric Balfour, who plays cage fighter and potential nemesis Victor. Balfour trained well for the film and even gets some action in the cage against MMA film star Heath Herring, who last appeared in Circle of Pain as the film’s nemesis. The only other MMA fighter in the cast noteworthy is Michael “Quick” Swick, who has one fight scene against Youngblood towards the end of the film.
The fight scenes were done by Marcus Young as stunt coordinator and Don L. Lee as fight coordinator. The duo collaborated on some well-done fights. Like Circle of Pain, there are times when a double or triple take is shown. While MMA fights on screen have suffered by the all-too quick cut/close up schematic, there is a bit of that here, but for the most part, the close ups mostly involve knee strikes and suplexes. In other words, the fights are much of a mixed bag, some good and some bad.
In the end, Beatdown is a decently made MMA film with the movie’s main focus on characters and rivalries with some decent action scenes. One can only hope Tapout continues with this style of film instead of their first attempts, which were more of a new version of Filipino 70’s B-cheapo films.
WFG RATING: B
Lionsgate and Grindhouse Entertainment present an Americana Films/Gunny Entertainment/Legacy Filmworks production in association with Tapout. Director: Mike Gunther. Producers: Mark Burman, Deboragh Gabler, and Michael Z. Gordon. Writers: Bobby Mort and Mike Gunther; story by Sean Patrick O’Reilly. Cinematography: Joe Passarelli. Editing: Dave Macomber.
Cast: Rudy Youngblood, Michael Bisping, Danny Trejo, Eric Balfour, Susie Abromeit, Bobby Lashley, Heath Herring, Kyle Woods, Jeff Gibbs, Bryan Massey, Richard Nance, Luis Olmeda.