I'm not a fan of the Mixed Martial Arts sport/genre, though I do respect the dedication, athleticism and perseverance those guys (and girls) bring to their craft. They fight their opponents with much gusto, and hope to either knock them out or make them surrender to a variety of submission moves. I'm guessing those who don't have a rear naked choke in their repertoire can watch Death Warrior when they feel an equivalent need to test their pain tolerance.
Directed by veteran television film director Bill Corcoran, Death Warrior was co-written by Eamon Glennon and Hector Echavarria, the latter serving as the film's protagonist Reinero. Reinero is a longtime MMA champion who is the victim of a house burglary by Ivan (Nick Mancuso, Stingray). Ivan forces Reinero, along with Reinero's former opponents/current friends, to fight each other in bouts to the death, all for the satisfaction of fans and gamblers over a presumed secret internet network.
The film did pique my interest initially; after all, Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson is on the front of the case and I know him not only for his MMA work, but for the fact that he's been cast as B.A. Baracus in the upcoming A-Team movie adaptation. However, his appearance in Death Warrior is quick, so I was left victim to the classic 'bait and switch' tactic that marketers resort to in order to move products. He's on the cover of the disc, yet he's barely in the film and doesn't even participate in the disc's supplementary material. As for the other fighters who appear in the film (Georges St.-Pierre, Keith Jardine and Rashad Evans), I'm not familiar with their work in the octagon, but as actors go, their roles in the film are those of athletes uttering semi-dramatic lines; you get what you pay for.
As for Echavarria, he's the guy who is supposed to be the ringer for this cast. Or at least, as much of a ringer as a guy who played "Ultimate Fighter" in Cradle 2 The Grave can be in such a movie like this. He's playing a role in a film that's part Fight Club and part Bloodsport, and even does it with the agility of an '80s Van Damme. The problem is that he doesn't read his lines with any of Van Damme's bravado. In addition, frankly, if I'm yearning for Jean Claude Van Damme's acting ability in a film, chances are the film has some problems. The fact that Echavarria looks like the Argentine Randy Spears might also play a part in this wooden performance, no pun intended.
In a way, Death Warrior makes me sad. It's clear that these fighters are being used to make some money for a brand (TapouT perhaps?) while getting very little money for their work in the film. It's clear they're there for their name and not for their merits, and the whole thing is a 90-minute cash grab that's not worth seeing. One thing's for sure, I'm not going to want to watch MMA any more because of this.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen using the AVC codec, you're not going to find much of an earth-shattering experience on Blu-ray for Death Warrior. The film is loaded with modest production value, overblown lighting and cheesy faux computer graphics. But it's replicated accurately, flesh tones look realistic and image detail in the foreground is solid. There's no real background detail and dimension feel to enjoy from this, and overall it looks like it may have been shot in HD originally and lazily reproduced on Blu or something, but this disc isn't going to drop jaws.
The film's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround track is loaded with generic heavy metal and club music that has subwoofer activity behind it. The dialogue is as balanced in the center channel and sounds clear, but don't expect a sonic revelation. There's no directional effects and no discernible speaker panning that I could pick up, and the film's action is more geared towards the front channels.
The "Behind the Scenes" piece (13:36) features Corcoran discussing the story and going through several different locations while a guy on set with a handheld camera films him and other members of the cast and crew. Moving on, "Rules of a Knife Fight" (5:23) looks at how the sequence in the film went down, and Echavarria (who does some fight choreography for the film) discusses the challenges of pulling it all together. Like the film, it includes stretches of music without dialogue, a tactic that recurs throughout the supplements. Next up, St. Pierre, Evans and Jardine are interviewed (5:26) and share their thoughts on the film and on acting. They're interviewed separately, and there's no 'Play All' function. Something called a "Micro Video" for the film is next, which would appear to sum the film up in 103 seconds. "Training in Hawaii with BJ Penn" (1:17) follows Penn, another MMA star, as he trains with the winner from a reality show called "Never Surrender." A preview for TapouT is next (1:01), and the film's trailer (1:33) closes things out.
Compared to other vehicle films for sports athletes, the story in Death Warrior is lazily told and clumsily executed, and does a disservice to fans of MMA and the athletes in the film. Honestly, I'd rather spend the $20 for a compilation of great knockouts and fights rather to see some uninspired chance at auxiliary income. Pass, and keep on passing.