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Jiu Jitsu (DVD + Digital)
The torrent of made-for-DVD movies has been overwhelmed by the avalanche of made-for-streaming movies such as Jiu Jitsu and it's not like any of us are hurting for ‘content' these days, but there are thousands and thousands of people whose lives depend on working in the movie industry, and one of them is Nicolas Cage. I'm OK with that.
So is Jiu Jitsu just a piece of make-work action entertainment? (I use the term fondly, I've never made a movie, and understand that everyone, save maybe Cage, took this movie seriously.) It sure feels that way to this reviewer, who went into viewing with expectations set to ‘nothing'. With a plot as basic as a hobo's lean-to is to the Taj Mahal, Jiu Jitsu is all about the action, which it has in plenty.
Jake (Alain Moussi) is a confused fighting man, found luckily floating face-up yet unconscious in the river, by Cage, after running through the jungle from a Predator-like invisible alien presence. After Jake is stitched up by some salty Burmese farmers (or Myanma farmers, depending) he's turned over to the United States military, interested in him for reasons never exactly clear to me, which is OK, because eventually their presence is mostly forgotten.
What's more important than covert military action in Myanmar is that Jake meets up with an undercover group of Jiu Jitsu warriors, and their spiritual hanger-on Wylie (Cage), a group dedicated to stopping the alien who rides a comet to Earth every six years in order to kill everyone via his ancient gift to Earthlings, which is, that's right, Jiu Jitsu. Can I get you another beer?
Though Jiu Jitsu is cleverly laid out as though it were a comic book, with illustrated panels used to transition between scenes, warning shots are fired across the bow immediately as one of the pre-credits production logos belongs to "Loredo Investments". When a movie starts out looking like a tax shelter, it's never a good sign. And despite the presence of the legendary Tony Jaa, Jiu Jitsu never rises above the level of a mildly pleasant, simmering time-waster.
A daft plot bolstered by a weirdly derivative conceit, with barely sketched-in, forgettable characters, can be forgiven if the action is bloody and/or exciting, but Jiu Jitsu misses the mark. Battles are nearly non-stop, which is great, even if the fights are against a dude in a rubber suit, the face of which looks like the computer forgot to render it. However, the unceasing slow-motion, stop-time, freeze-frame antics and turgid music take all the fun out of things. Rather than amping up the excitement, the stylized action sucks the air out of the room. Not even the presence of Nicolas Cage (more than I had expected) is enough to jump-start the movie.
Lacking an interesting plot, Jiu Jitsu presents wall-to-wall action that seems sadly inert. Fight scenes miss verve, and the alien isn't so much menacing as it is goofy. If you want to stock-pile physical media for the apocalypse, wait until this one hits the bins at Dollar General, otherwise, for lack of a better metric, Skip It.
On the plus side, Jiu Jitsu arrives on DVD in a fairly sparkling 2.35:1 ratio transfer, with crisp details and zero blemishes. Colors are rich and image integrity holds up under most circumstances, such as darker areas and the alien's weird ‘face'.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound is up to the task, with clear dialog, nice dynamic range, and a well-balanced mix throughout. Sound design is relatively active, befitting all the action.
Extras are limited to a digital download code.
Lacking an interesting plot, Jiu Jitsu presents wall-to-wall action that seems sadly inert. Fight scenes miss verve, and the alien isn't so much menacing as it is goofy. If you want to stock-pile physical media for the apocalypse, wait until this one hits the bins at Dollar General, otherwise, for lack of a better metric, Skip It
- Kurt Dahlke