Jiu-jitsu, Nicolas Cage and a tip of the hat to the ridiculous

NOVEMBER 28 ― Cult film fandom covers a wide enough area of interest that to simply lump them all into one general phrase like “cult films” is actually kind of a disservice to how broad, varied and interesting they can be.

It’s almost like calling all guitar-based music “rock music”, when clearly the subgenres are too many to mention, all of them bearing unique hallmarks of their particular sound.

Punk rock is clearly not the same as alternative rock, like how black metal is clearly distinguishable from doom metal, even when belonging under the same general umbrella that people often call “rock music.”

Cult films are similarly varied in texture. Some, like the films of Ed Wood or Tommy Wiseau become cult items because they’re so incompetently (but earnestly) made that the results, sometimes hysterical and sometimes wooden, just became too entertaining and too charming to ignore for certain people with certain mindsets going into watching the films.

There are cult films that amassed their cults courtesy of their subject matter, like how 90s rock flicks like the Wayne’s World and Bill And Ted films became cult favourites because their subject matter and the main characters are prime examples of geeky rock fandom, not to mention other 90s rock films like Airheads, Detroit Rock City and even Empire Records.

In fact, quite a healthy number of films became cult films because of their subject matter, like how BMX Bandits and Rad became cult classics because they involve BMX bicycles, or Slapshot with ice hockey and Gleaming The Cube with skateboarding.

In short, most of these cult films never intended to become one in the first place. But, as I mentioned earlier, there are many nooks and crannies in the world of cult films, and although most cult films did not start out wanting to be one, there are plenty of cult films out there that not only set out to become one upon inception, but also succeeded to do so because of how well the film-makers have managed to pull it off.

Quite a lot of these belong in what I’d call the “ridiculous” or “over the top” cult film genre, like the Iron Sky and Sharknado films, or one of my all-time favourites, The FP.

The self-conscious nature of a lot of these newer “ridiculous” cult films can make the successful ones really fun to watch, with the downside being that those that miss the mark can be a chore to sit through.

Recently a new candidate in this category have turned up on some people’s radars, and being the cult film fan that I am, of course I’d be giving it a spin at the earliest possible opportunity, especially when the film’s poster and trailer gives more than ample time and space to the one and only Nicolas Cage.

The days of Nicolas Cage headlining a big budget Hollywood blockbuster are long gone, replaced by his new status as the current king of wannabe ridiculous movies, with every passing year witnessing at least three or four B-grade films with ridiculous premises sporting posters parading his name and likeness, even when he’s actually more of a supporting character.

Jiu Jitsu, the latest film from Kickboxer: Retaliation director Dimitri Logothetis, is quite clearly banking on the ridiculous card as well, as it has a plot that reads like a mash-up of Predator and Mortal Kombat, which on paper sounds like a really cool and fun idea that you wonder why no one has made this before.

It is about how every six years, an order of jiu-jitsu fighters will have to join forces to battle a Predator-like alien fighter who comes through a portal in an ancient temple.

Fight and die like a brave warrior at the hands of the alien predator, and it will return through its portal without harming anyone else, but if the fighters run or refuse to fight, then the alien predator will annihilate everyone and everything in sight before returning home through the portal.

My issue with Jiu Jitsu is that it comes up short with both its selling points. As a fight flick which stars dependable action stars like Tony Jaa, Alain Moussi and Frank Grillo, the fight scenes here are quite lacklustre, both in terms of fight choreography and staging.

For some reason, there’s an over-reliance on almost video game-like first person POV shots during the fights, and even more glaring is how slow the kicks and punches are in motion, even when the film-makers are resorting to the usual shaky cam and fast cuts schtick that pepper most modern-day action films.

It’s even more disappointing when you consider the fact that it came from the director of Kickboxer: Retaliation, which I’m a fan of and had some pretty sweet fight scenes.

Its other selling point, the ridiculous part of it, is only being sold by Cage (who did a pretty swell job, especially with the material that he’s given) alone, making it a pretty half-hearted job at doing so by the film since everyone else just doesn’t seem to be on the same wavelength.

If you have about 90 minutes to kill and nothing else to watch to pass the time, then you might not be too disappointed with this one. Otherwise, save yourselves the chore and put that time to use to do other, more useful things.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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