Lionsgate // 2009 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 1st, 2009
The world's top MMA fighter in their first feature film.
I respect Mixed Martial Arts as a sport, but I fear this ludicrous film may have done irreparable harm to its reputation.
Hector Echavarria -- who also directs -- stars as Diego Carter, one of MMA's biggest stars. He's flush with cash, fame, and adoring fans, but a new opportunity will present itself which offers one more benefit: Whores! It's an underground cage-fighting circuit where the winners score cash and a night of intercourse with the loser's female attendant. Apparently it's all designed to maximize the primal savagery of the bouts, the males fighting to defend the virtue of the females, etc.
At first Diego can't get enough of the money and the fighting and the fornicating, but when he discovers the dark secret behind the fight club's prostitution ring, he decides to take the battle to Cipher, the big bad leader; and if that means never surrendering, then by golly he's not going to surrender. Nope, not ever. Never ever. Never Surrender!
I, on the other hand, am raising the white flag. Please, top MMA fighters, no more. I have no doubt you can pulverize me into a pinkish gooey paste within three seconds -- and believe me, I appreciate that m -- but if Never Surrender is the kind of feature film output we can look forward to in the future, then maybe everyone should take a deep breath and focus their energies on pounding away at hanging slabs of frozen beef instead.
This thing is just stultifying in its badness. Hector Echavarria puts his best foot forward, but unless that foot's entering the stomach cavity of an opposing fighter at the speed of light, the eagerness is just being wasted. Homeboy's line-readings are excruciating and when real acting is called for -- like emoting about the plights of the hookers -- the discomfort level rises to ionospheric heights. And that's setting aside the fact he had no problem boinking these girls after each fight he won, but somehow never suspecting that something might be shady about a practice which offers up submissive sex in exchange for victories in an illegal underground fighting ring.
Speaking of which, there is a lot of sex and nudity here. It's borderline Cinemax softcore, which is handy for Echavarria who was responsible for the story, as well as the direction, and was on the business end of all of the hanky-panky, as lead actor. Not that I'm implying Hector Echavarria -- who, remember, can drive me feet-first into the pavement, by banging his fists on my head repeatedly -- needs to make a movie to touch naked breasts or anything. No, I'm sure Mr. Echavarria just felt that full frontal nudity, endless simulated sex scenes, and submerged-in-bathwater fellatio was positively critical to his artistic vision.
The most disappointing aspect of the film are the action sequences. There are a bunch, but none memorable. It's obvious these guys have the skillz to pay the billz in the arena of mortal combat, but the fight choreography is flat and uninspiring. Heck, they even made that awesome dude with the dreadlocks who flips around on his wrists and fought Tony Jaa in The Protector look dull.
If your MMA fanboyism is driving you toward this self-flagellation, then you have a half-decent DVD to look forward to. The video quality (1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen) is clean and the 5.1 surround pushes the oppressive metal soundtrack with zest. Extras include low-impact featurettes on the making-of and the fight set-ups, plus a music video for the 12 Stones song "Adrenaline:"
Sorry MMA aficionados, but Never Surrender is not the breakout movie you may have been hoping for. Actually, syphilis is the only breakout likely to happen here.
Guilty. Uncle! Uncle!
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Music Video