Well, it’s got to be worth a few laughs, right?
A martial arts sci-fi thriller with Nicolas Cage in the Nic Cage role — “He knows I’m crazy. There’s no HONOR in killing crazy!”
Set in Burma, “Jiu Jitsu” was filmed in Cypress, another dividend from that “Cypress: It’s not just for money-laundering any more” film commission campaign.
The first images are of a guy fleeing…something — with these digital Ninja throwing stars “zing zing” zinging by him.
The first words, when this wounded guy (Alain Moussi) is dropped off with the off-the-books U.S. Army group in country, are uttered by a Sergeant who sounds like Lindsey Graham’s less masculine Carolina cousin.
This indie nonsense staggers along, letting us know that our survivor has amnesia, that the Army has him but this other “team” led by Frank Grillo “had” him, that there’s something radioactive in Burma’s “Valley of the Temples,” and the guy’s actual name is “Jake,” and he has a martial artist mercenary girlfriend (JuJu Chan).
Brawls ensue. Tony Jaa is here, and Ricky Yune.
“Who WERE those Jedi Knights who just took out my unit?”
And then, Thank the Maker, Nicolas Cage Himself shows up, in full Dennis-Hopper-in-“Apocalypse-Now” regalia. Who’re you?
“I’m YOU…in a few years, if you don’t get your s–t together!”
“You look puzzled! ARE you puzzled? I get it. I’M PUZZLED.”
Cage is here to explain first, himself, how he gets along, living in a cave.
“I’ve got my hobbies. I make hats outta newspapers. It’s an art…AND a craft!”
He also pulls together all the snippets of story, the misinterpreted locals who fear what shows up every time a six year comet returns to Burmese (Cypriot) skies. Sure, we’ve seen first-person shooter point-of-view footage as Jake escapes one “unit” and stumbles into other. But then there’re all these heads-up infrared targeting shots. SOMEthing is hunting them. All of them.
It’s the Alien Predator who “brought the world jiu jitsu.” And he comes back, every six years, “looking for a fight.”
Only the best Jiu Jitsu warriors will do. A fight to the death, with the fate of humanity at stake. How’s the crazy guy know all this? Remember, “there’s no honor in killing CRAZY!”
The fights are reasonably well-choreographed, the stuntwork not totally obvious. The effects are adequate, there are half-assed “graphic novel” chapter breaks and titles — “The Rabbit,” and the like.
The story? Strictly wakkie nunu.
At least Cage is here for a few laughs. Heck, he’s even given the cleverest martial arts one-liner ever.
“Just remember the one thing you always have with Jiu Jitsu — LEVERAGE.”
MPA Rating: R, violence
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Frank Grillo, Juju Chan, Alain Moussi, Ricky Yune, Tony Jaa
Credits: Directed by Dimitri Logothetis, script by Dimitri Logothetis and Jim McGrath. A Highland Film Group release.
Running time: 1:42