Combustible Celluloid
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With: Alain Moussi, Nicolas Cage, Frank Grillo, Tony Jaa, Eddie Steeples, Marie Avgeropoulos, Marrese Crump, Juju Chan, Ryan Tarran
Written by: Dimitri Logothetis, Jim McGrath
Directed by: Dimitri Logothetis
MPAA Rating: R for violence throughout
Running Time: 102
Date: 11/20/2020

Jiu Jitsu (2020)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Alien Fight

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

With its silly, preposterous story, its bizarre, queasy action sequences and a group of performances in wildly varying pitches, the action movie Jiu Jitsu is, at best, a candidate for so-bad-it's good status.

Jake Barnes (Alain Moussi) runs through the forest, pursued by some kind of unknown force. He jumps from a cliff, crashes into the water, and hits his head on a rock. When he comes to, he is in a military outpost, questioned by Myra (Marie Avgeropoulos), but unable to remember anything.

Before long, he is abducted by a band of martial artists — including Harrigan (Frank Grillo), Kueng (Tony Jaa), and Carmen (JuJu Chan) — who seem to remember him. He also encounters the strange hermit Wylie (Nicolas Cage), who tells him what's going on: every six years a comet passes over that opens a portal, and from the portal emerges an alien. This alien must battle nine warriors or else it will destroy the world. Can Jake get his head back in the game and help save the world?

To start, the alien bad guy in Jiu Jitsu just doesn't make any sense. If he's beaten every six years, why does he keep coming back? Not to mention that the alien himself is just a guy in a suit with a mask-screen that plays different images. He's not particularly scary, or even interesting. Then, the amnesia idea makes not the slightest bit of difference in the story. There's no reason for Jake to have lost his memory, other than perhaps to stretch a 5-minute idea into a longer movie.

Director Dimitri Logothetis, who seems intent on making Jiu Jitsu into a new franchise, films the action sequences with a nauseating skip-frame technique, making everything seem twitchy, like a strobe effect. Then, the action switches randomly back and forth from slo-mo to regular time, which somehow makes things even less exciting. Even worse, the cameras are sometimes mounted on the actors, making for an even more disorienting sensation.

The performances range from emotionless and muted to barking and shouting, but none can match Cage, who these days seems to be cast just in movies so he can provide another of his trademark "unhinged" characters. At least he seems to be having fun. He may be the only one.

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