When I first saw Chuck Norris pull off a Ju-Jitsu armbar on a thug in an episode of Walker: Texas Ranger, I knew that the influence of mixed martial arts on fight choreography had finally arrived. Probably the best example, Donnie Yen has recently embraced this by incorporating submission and grappling moves along with the expected standard punches and kicks in S.P.L. and Flash Point. In US films, this trend has left us with the mediocre Redbelt, the hack commercial likes of Never Back Down and Fighting, and direct to video fare like Street Warrior.
When your movie starts with an opening title montage containing scenes-from-the-upcoming-film, you know you are in trouble. Anyway, set to an anonymous metal tune, the Street Warrior opening credits deliver a barrage of quick cuts, whooshes, and freeze frames of clubs, cars, bad fake titties, and burly men being extra burly while grimacing, yelling, and hitting each other.
Jack Campbell (Max Martini- The Unit, Redbelt, Saving Private Ryan) is an ex-special forces grunt who was jailed and expelled from the Army after he beat up a superior. Of course, it was justified. Definite shades of Con Air and Rambo, with our quiet, lives by his own honor code soldier. He emerges from jail and no sooner does our man get off the bus does he save a childhood sweetheart from some thugs (the introduce how badass he is scene) and finds out that his brother is in a coma (the action hero motivation).
Jack's bro was injured trying to pay the trailer park bills and provide for his preggars wife via taking part in an underground fighting ring. Jack conveniently gets the lowdown and attention of "The Gauntlet" the first time he goes digging for clues at the club of underworld weasel- and film hero sidekick- Georgie (Max Perlich- Drugstore Cowboy, Gleaming the Cube, Georgia). The stock villain who runs human cockfight is a guy named Pope (Nick Chinlund, perhaps best known as the necrophile from X-Files), who draws Jack into fighting for him by kidnapping his sister-in-law.
The predicable beats follow as Jack must fight his way through a tournament, which Pope rigs at every turn, and try to figure out how to get his sister-in-law back and bring down Pope while taking some lumps and bruises. It is what you would expect in a low budget action film from a writer who's main credits are the WWF, WWE, and ECW, which is Street Warrior scribe Alex Greenfield's background. He's the kind of writer who has two seperate characters refer to Campbell as riding in on a white horse. What, you couldnt come up with two different cliches? How about Campbell being a white knight? Likewise, the direction is capable but innocuous from helmer David Jackson, who, if imdb is correct, has carved a career mainly out of tv work, everything from 21 Jump Street, to Nash Bridges, Miami Vice, Swamp Thing, and The District.
The actors all remain in their one note character boxes. Max Martini tries to give 40ish gingers everywhere hope that they too may have a grizzled hero, but he really lacks the psychical presence to convince me he could scrap with a guy twice his size. He also does the macho mumble thing, often amusingly, so that statements like, "I don't have a choice," becomes a low, one word utterance, "Idoehavvachio." If I thought the film had another level, I'd assume he was doing a parody. Nick Chinlund bellows and sneers but Pope never becomes more that a cardboard evil guy we've seen a hundred times before. The ghost of Shek Kin is somewhere scratching his head with his evil claw over how Chinlund couldn't inject some kind of twist or spark to his typical antagonist.
From wooden acting, to staid direction, all can be forgiven if your b-action film delivers with some nice fights and stuntwork. Street Warrior falls up short. The style versus style aspect is underplayed in the choreography. While you have the lucha libre guy, the wrestler, the BJJ Nazi?, the big bouncer looking guy, and a redneck (I guess his martial art is muddin' or cow tipping), they aren't exactly the cast of Master of the Flying Guillotine or Bloodsport. The action scenes are filmed in a quick cut, PAN!-ZOOM!, generic way that makes every scene feel the same. The fights end up so choppy they often lose transitions and that narrows the scope of the back and forth drama. The finale is just unsatisfying on every level. They skirt around Jack fighting the Gauntlet big bad and, in the inevitable showdown with a doped to the gills Pope, Jack handles Pope pretty easily.
The DVD: Genius Products.
Picture: The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen. I'll give all due credit, Street Warrior actually looks pretty decent. Sure, you'll never for a moment think its a big budget film where guys fight in a industrial warehouse pit with gaudily florescent lit pillars wrapped in razor wire, but, for what it is, the tech creds and transfer is pretty damn solid.
Sound: A sole 5.1 Surround, English soundtrack is all you get. No subtitles or close-captioning. Overall, the impression is a competent mix of mediocre scoring, stock fx noise, and weak dialogue levels (or maybe that was just the Martini-mumble). For instance, when they first said the lead characters name, I had to rewind and double check, "Jack Camel?... Jack Caramel?"
Conclusions: Honestly, I think everyone involved in Street Warrior knew that what they were making was purely the stuff of a blind, casual rental, or maybe a purchase from the bargain bin by some brave DTV action fan who couldn't find the latest Segal release. The DVD doesn't offer any extra incentive to purchase it either, but I'll be generous and lean towards a rental for you lovers of predictable b-action flicks.