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STUDIO: Lions Gate
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
•Behind The Scenes
•Rules Of A Knife Fight
•Interviews With George St-Pierre, Rashad Evans, Keith Jardine
•MMA Training In Hawaii With BJ Penn
Boffo brawny brutes beat and bruise! Bonny bride bullied by baddies.
Directed by Bill Corcoran
Written by Eamon Glennon, Story by Hector Echavarria
Cast: Hector Echavarria, Georges “Rush” St.-Pierre, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Keith “The Dean of Mean” Jardine, Rashad “Sugar” Evans
Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters forced to Fight in an illegal Championship to Ultimately decide which Fighter is the Ultimate Champion.
In the 1950’s, science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon, in an effort to explain why science fiction is mostly terrible, coined “Sturgeon’s Law,” which states that “90% of everything is crap.” In the realm of direct-to-video cinema, Sturgeon’s Law should be applied on a logarithmic sliding scale, because for DTV flicks the figure is more like 99.9%. Furthermore, that remaining 0.1% for the most part does not mean Redbox’s version of Andrei Tarkovsky or Werner Herzog; it mainly means “good enough” B-movie entertainment.
Death Warrior sports a somewhat above-average budget (by DTV standards of course), a cast of UFC fighters (who are just as good at acting as you’d expect, but fortunately also just as good at hitting each other as you’d expect,) and a premise that’s essentially Hard Target meets Enter the Dragon (nothing original, but for a B-movie plot it’ll do). I was pleased to discover that it was indeed a 0.1%-er.
True fact: the ‘C’ in UFC stands for ‘classy.’
Death Warrior stars UFC champ Hector Echavarria, who plays UFC champ Reinero Isandro. Isandro, a veteran of the Octagon, is about to retire. He has an undefeated record, a beautiful wife, and wonderful new opportunities opening up to him, such as a leading role in “an action movie that only plays on cell phones” and a sponsorship deal for “some sports energy drink.” The world is his octagonal oyster. Unfortunately, before he can pry open the world’s shell, it sends gunmen to rudely kidnap him and his wife. Also the gunmen call him “Punchy.” Isandro is forced into a death-match tournament where he must fight death-matches against the greatest fighters in the world (who seem to pretty much all be UFC fighters.) It’s deadly bread & circuses, with the kidnapped fighters providing the circuses, and an underground ring of bloodthirsty gambling millionaires providing the bread.
To force the fighters to kill each other, the conspirators get leverage on each one of them. Isandro’s hot wife Kira (Tanya Clarke) is injected with a tiny dissolving capsule containing a neurotoxin, for which the antidote is a carefully guarded secret. If Isandro cheats (weapons are not allowed), resists, or escapes, no more lovely wife, and no more Snake Plissken.
Isandro is taken to his first fight, against his UFC rival and dear friend “Wolf” (played by UFC fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson). Wolf reveals that his son has been taken hostage, and begs Isandro to kill him for his son’s sake. After not much convincing, Isandro breaks Wolf’s neck (As with most of the kills in the movie, this is accompanied by a CGI X-ray shot of disintegrating vertebrae.)
Showdown in the abandoned Tron factory.
Isandro is then whisked away to a fancy mansion, where he is ambushed by an elite squad of high-class prostitutes, who attack him with seductive wiles. He fends them off with his “stalwart husbant loyalty stance.”
The rest of the movie is pretty much a typical martial arts tournament flick, interspersed with scenes of Isandro trying to investigate the underground ring and unravel who betrayed him (It’s a martial arts movie; obviously someone betrayed him.) The investigation/intrigue scenes are basically a subplot compared to the tournament section, which is how it should be, since the fight scenes are the best part of the movie. One is centered around tug-of-war with an elaborate chain-and-pulley system. Another features the only non-UFC combatant, a French ninja named Kai Lang (he wears a mask and never talks, so you don’t learn he’s a French ninja until we see the actor, Louis Pacquette, in the DVD extras). Kai Lang fights without honor, busting out a sword and some knives. This breaks the rules, so the man in charge, Ivan, busts in and shoots Kai Lang to death.
I’ll admit; as a reviewer, if in the third act the villain pulls out a hitherto-unmentioned and unseen sword and starts rampaging, that’s an extra 0.4/10 right there.
Ivan, played by Nick Mancuso, is, acting-wise, pretty much the best thing about the movie. Not content to chew scenery, he seems to swallow it whole. Mancuso is a good go-to guy for villains; his resume includes such roles as the Marquis de Sade and the anti-Christ. Here he does a lot of howling, killing, and even some swashbuckling.
Isandro’s other UFC rival and dear friend “Andre,” played by Keith “The Dean of Mean” Jardine goes after him. Mr. of Mean’s sister has been Battle Royale-necklaced to leverage him into the tournament, and he thinks Isandro is behind it all. Isandro wisely points out that he is not in fact behind it all, and the two agree to team up against Ivan. It’s a waste of valuable server space to tell you what you already know, that these two end up in the final fight of the tournament, but I’ve already written it and I can’t find the delete key on my keyboard, so there it is.
This is why professional trainers say you shouldn’t eat a large jagged piece of glass before an MMA tournament.
UFC and WWE have been making forays into the realm of (mostly DTV) movie making; indeed, this disc contains trailers for one other UFC movie and one WWE feature (even outside of movies there’s a bit of crossover between the two). In my experience, some of the more entertaining DTV movies I’ve seen have been martial arts movies; as far as low-budget action goes, good gunfights can be expensive, but as long as you have reasonably physically adept people and are willing to put a little bit of time into it, a decent martial arts fight doesn’t have to break the bank. Both companies have a surplus of minor celebrities who are physically capable; apparently that’s all you really need for a DTV martial arts B-movie.
Decent 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. Some interviews, wherein director Bill Corcoran tells us that they really wanted the fight scenes to look real. Some MMA footage, and trailers for other DTV movies.