Jiu Jitsu (2020)

An amnesiac finds his destiny in this martial arts sci-fi hybrid from the team who brought you the Kickboxer reboot and its sequel.

A man on the run escapes but has lost his memory. Found and nursed in a temple, he is taken to a U.S. Army stranglehold, where he can’t seem to remember anything. Despite pressure from intelligence officer Myra and team leader Sand, the man cannot remember why he is there. A group of warriors arrive to take the man back as they reveal his name is Jake. However, the warriors and the Army are about to be the least of Jake’s problems.

An alien warrior known as Brax has arrived in Earth and he is looking for a fight. When various members of the Army fall prey to Brax, it is clear Jake is the target. With no other option, Jake finds himself teaming with the band of warriors who have tracked him down. Under the mentorship of the enigmatic Wylie, Jake begins to learn that Brax has challenged Jake to a fight and when Jake opted to run, it led to his current state. Jake is the chosen one, the latest of a band of Jiu-Jitsu warriors who must take on Brax for the fate of humanity as he appears every six years to challenge someone. Will Jake be able to regain his memory and muster up the courage to take on the alien warrior or will humanity fall to the beast known as Brax?

With Kickboxer: Retaliation getting a more general popular vote as opposed to its trouble-ridden prequel, plans were set for a third and final installment, Kickboxer: Armageddon. However, Dimitri Logothetis and Jim McGrath, who wrote the two reboots of the classic Van Damme film, threw everyone a curve ball and first created a graphic novel about humans vs. aliens in a martial arts-style fight for humanity. While we’ve seen monsters such as vampires and werewolves engage in fisticuffs on many occasion, it’s a rarity to see aliens as the monsters in hand-to-hand combat, but here we are and despite a few minor flaws, this is actually a pretty good meshing of martial arts and sci-fi.

Alain Moussi once again leads the way as the amnesiac Jake, who throughout the film is given clues as to his real identity and his destiny. It seems like the stuntman/actor tends to get better with each lead role he has taken as we get to see him go from scared to badass to at times emotional. Moussi leads a wonderful ensemble cast who get to strut their stuff. While Rick Yune and Marie Avgeropoulos lead the military side of the faction with an annoying character in Tommy Walker’s Private Tommy, it the warriors side who really delve out the action.

Nicolas Cage brings out quite an intro as the mysterious Wylie, the mentor of the warrior faction tasked with saving humanity through the art of Jiu Jitsu. Frank Grillo is the tough Harrigan while Tony Jaa gets to unleash his skills as Kueng, reuniting him with Supoj “Jim” Khaowwong, who is the film’s action director. Both Jaa and Khaowwong are proteges of late Thai stunt legend Panna Rittikrai. JuJu Chan as the only female member of the team, Carmen, struts both her kicking and weapon skills utilizing both tonfa and nunchaku with Jaa using double tonfas. Rounding out the team are Marrese Crump, Rigan Machado, and Dan Rizzuto respectively as Forbes, Victor, and Franz.

Which brings us to the film’s villain. The main gripe with the Kickboxer reboot trilogy is that the main antagonist tends to be more of a hulking monster rather than an agile fighter capable of pulling off any set moves, with the exception of Dave Bautista’s rushed set as Tong Po in Kickboxer: Vengeance, but that felt a bit rushed and it was due to his commitment to Spectre at the time. Alas, we have Australian stuntman and martial artist Ryan Tarran, complete with a look that he came out of a video game, makes the most of his scenes as the alien fighter Brax. Definitely unlike strongman Hafthor Julius Bjornsson of Kickboxer: Retaliation, Tarran is actually agile and does quite well in his fight scenes against practically the whole cast. However, the first of two very small flaws is that when we see Brax’s face under his helmet, which has red beady eyes and a lizard like face, it looks a bit more laughable than menacing. Just avoid the face and watch him fight.

As for the action, there lies the only other small flaw. It is understandable to use slow motion impact shots in fight scenes, but it is best to use the style sporadically. However, the filmmakers decide to use it too much at times and it gets a little tiring after a while. On the upside, there is a nice first-person point of view from Jake in one scene as he sees Jaa’s Kueng helping him take on some of the ragtag military soldiers. Cage himself gets in on some of the action as he is trained in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu by Royce Gracie. Cage even gets in on a swordfight against Tarran as does Crump getting to showcase his stuff against Tarran before being joined by Machado and Rizzuto. Overall, the action is pretty good, but they need to stop the overdosing of the slow-mo impact shots and use them at the right moments.

All in all, Jiu Jitsu is a step above from Kickboxer: Retaliation in terms of having a worthy villain in Ryan Tarran’s Brax being both a beast and agile, even if his face is more laughable. The ensemble cast do quite well but the overdosing of slow-motion impact shots may prove to be a hindrance to those looking forward to the fights, but they are quite decent.

WFG RATING: B

Avenue Entertainment presents an Acme Rocket Fuel production. Director: Dimitri Logothetis. Producer: Dimitri Logothetis. Writers: Dimitri Logothetis and Jim McGrath; based on their graphic novel. Cinematography: Gerardo Madrazo. Editing:

Cast: Alain Moussi, Frank Grillo, JuJu Chan, Nicolas Cage, Tony Jaa, Eddie Steeples, Marrese Crump, Rigan Machado, Dan Rizzuto, Rick Yune, Marie Avgeropoulos, Ryan Tarran, Tommy Walker.

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