Directed and co-written by Jonas Quastel, 2011's Forced To Fight puts martial arts action star Gary Daniels in the lead role and tells a decent story even if it isn't the most original piece of filmmaking to ever hit the screen. Shot entirely in Romania standing in for America, the story revolves around Shane Slavin, a onetime mixed martial arts underground fighting legend who has since retired to live out the quiet life and run his mechanic's shop. Shane doesn't want much of anything to do with his past life, but his younger brother Scotty (Arkie Reece) sees the world of underground fighting as a way to make some money and kick some ass.
Scotty's fight career seems fine at first but soon enough he makes a wrong move and winds up on the bad side of Danny G. (Peter Weller), the crook who runs the show. This earns Scotty a pretty serious beat down and Danny intends to collect the sixty-four grand he figures Scotty owes him. When Shane learns what happens he realizes that there's no way Scotty is going to be able to come up with the money in time to appease Danny and so he makes him a deal - in exchange for forgiving his brother's debt, he'll step into the ring. This might sound like a walk in the park for an experienced fighter like Shane, but he quickly learns that the circuit has changed since he bowed out years ago and he soon finds himself going up against fighters both younger and far more savage than himself. Shane has to work his way through the tournaments to make the money Scotty needs, all without getting himself killed or taking it out his increasing frustrations on his family.
Forced To Fight is definitely not a perfect movie. First off, you do have to wonder why it is that if Danny is broadcasting his fights online the cops aren't able to track down this patently illegal operation and put at stop to it. This is never once an issue - we have to accept it and move on even if it hurts the credibility of the storyline. With that aside, the film does a reasonably good job of letting its Romanian locations stand in for American cities and Daniels handles the American accent on his character perfectly fine. Some of the background players are quite obviously of European descent but the principal actors all do fine here.
The movie manages to play by the established rules of the type of tournament films we've seen being churned out since the seventies. Established by pictures like Enter The Dragon and carried on in the tradition of later entries like Bloodsport, we get all of the action and different fighting styles we'd expect from this type of film but also some decent, if occasionally hammy, drama as well. Daniels makes for a likeable leading man here. Not only can he handle himself in the ring and excel in the action scenes but he's got decent acting skills as well. His back and forth with the different characters in the movie seems real enough that we have no problem buying him in the part. Co-headliner Peter Weller is on the exact opposite side of the spectrum as far as his performance goes. He's obviously having a great time playing the bad guy as he chomps on one cigar after another yelling and screaming his way through the movie. He chews up the scenery but he does it well and even if he goes over the top he's fun to watch.
Daniels' character is written well enough that we get more than just scene after scene of him pummeling and being pummeled. His issues with anger management and depression make him more interesting than your cookie cutter action movie tough guy and the story delivers enough drama to give the fight scenes more impact than they would have had otherwise. It's a bit heavy with clichés and predictability but otherwise the movie is well made with a good cast and it delivers just the right mix of story and action to make it worth checking out.
Forced To Fight looks pretty good on Blu-ray in 1.78.1 widescreen and in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The scenes that take place in the underground fight club have a smoky, hazy look to them that can sometimes obscure fine detail but it is in keeping with the tone of those scenes and the lighting of the locations so you can't really fault the disc for that. Detail is generally pretty good especially in close up shots. Shot on digital video, the image is clean and there are no problems with any dirt or damage. Some minor crush and compression can be spotted in a few of the darker scenes but outside of that the picture is pretty solid here.
The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. All in all, the mix on the disc does a fine job with both the action intensive scenes as well as the more subdued and dramatic moments in the movie. Rear channel activity is not a constant but it's definitely there during the fights while most of the dialogue comes from the front of the mix. The levels are nicely balanced and there are no problems to note with any hiss or distortion. Bass response isn't super powerful but it's there and the low end adds some 'oomph' anytime one of the combatants lands a blow. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.
Aside from some menu screens and chapter selection, we get a trailer for the feature and two quick featurettes: Behind The Scenes With Peter Weller (2:25), which is a quick collection of behind the scenes footage and a brief interview with the actor, and Filming The Fights (2:55), an assortment of random fight footage and some quick interviews with those who shot it.
Forced To Fight doesn't win any high points for originality but it's definitely fun. Daniels' martial arts skills get to shine a few times and Weller seems to enjoy chewing through the scenery here. The story is more than a little bit predictable but it works in some decent drama here and there and if Image's Blu-ray isn't loaded with extras it does at least look and sound pretty decent. Recommended for action movie fans.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.