Lionsgate // 2009 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 11th, 2009
Let the games begin.
It's time for another action movie starring mixed martial artists, which means gratuitous nudity and acting that will kill whole swaths of rainforests.
Hector Echavarria (Never Surrender) is Reinero, the world MMA champion. He's on the verge of his final bout, when he finds himself sucked into a nightmarish world of illegal fighting and online betting. Some douchebag named Ivan (Nick Mancuso) is blackmailing the top MMA fighters to do battle, holding their loved ones hostage in exchange for participation in these to-do-the-death match-ups.
Reinero will have to fight his way through the ranks, to get a shot at Ivan and secure the antidote to the poison that is slowly eating its way through his wife. The question is: can you escape before Death Warrior eats its way through your brain?
Nothing really to see here. The first MMA-fighter-fueled motion picture extravaganza, Never Surrender was a laughable exercise in futility, punctuated by pointless sex scenes and tepid action choreography. Death Warrior picks right up and continues the formula, substituting in an even more derivative plot and a bit less fornication. The end result? Another whiff.
Once again stepping in as the Main Action Guy is Hector Echavarria. While lacking the acting acumen, he at least has the physicality and willingness to engage in the syrupy love scenes required of the role. As I don't follow MMA, I'm unaware of how skilled a combatant he truly is, but the guy knows how to carry himself with movie violence. Flanking him is a series of MMA guys I don't recognize (except for Quentin "Rampage" Jackson) who show up merely to have the stuffing knocked out of them by Echavarria.
The fairly unmemorable fight scenes are what Death Warrior is built around and, though their assembly isn't embarrassing, what hurts the mayhem is empty characterization. For example, Reinero has a dog in this fight because he really loves his wife (so much so he manages to squeeze in some boinking, even though she's deathly ill from poison), but so do all the other guys. They're not necessarily bad dudes, they just have a loved one being held at gunpoint. So when they clash with Reinero, who do you root for? Reinero ultimately wins and kills his opponents. Terrific. Good for him. But it isn't until the final fight scene, when our hero squares off against Ivan, that there's a genuine heavy on the receiving end of his punches and head-butts.
What remains after these melees? Not much. Director Bill Corcohan is committed to spicing up the dead time between fights with gratuitous nudity, but what option does he have when the alternative is watching Nick Mancuso cough up one of the most hilariously awful villain performances ever conceived?
The DVD: an effective A/V treatment -- 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 surround -- is joined by interviews; a selection of featurettes on the fight choreography, MMA training in Hawaii, and general behind-the-scenes; and a music video.
Death Warrior is full of guys who can bend me in half, so let's end this review by saying this is the greatest movie ever made.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Music Video