Lightning Entertainment // 2007 // 98 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // September 5th, 2008
"I'll change, become someone else, a machine that pounds and gets punched, a machine that wins. I'll become Scorpion."
With the likes of Never Back Down and Redbelt recently making their way to DVD and Blu-Ray, it seems that MMA (mixed martial arts), like kung-fu and kickboxing before it, is currently the "in thing" for action cinema. However, by spending arduous amounts of time on character, rather than action, director Julien Seri's Scorpion is rendered a big dull dud, making it unlikely to bring MMA to the mainstream just yet. It had all seemed so promising, too. From the trailer for Scorpion, which contains plenty of bone-crunching action, drug use, and gratuitous T&A, I was expecting a return to the hedonistic days of the late eighties, when video store shelves heaved under the weight of such delightful guilty pleasures as Kickboxer and American Ninja. Sadly, like the schoolteacher intent on making you learn even while on a school trip, Scorpion takes itself far too seriously.
Even if the film's premise is hardly inspiring, it does have the required elements for a fun action flick. Thai boxer Angelo (Clovis Cornillac) has no shortage of talent, but is lacking in control. Upon discovering his chance at a title shot has been taken from him, Angelo flies into a rage, killing his opponent with his bare hands. Following his imprisonment, Angelo finds he hasn't been forgotten and his fighting skills are still in demand. Enticed by nightclub worker Virginie (Karole Rocher), who he hopes will help him on his path to redemption, Angelo finds himself drawn into the world of underground fighting by Virginie's boss; nightclub owner Marcus (Francis Renaud).
But instead of keeping its focus on Angelo's rise through the world of underground MMA, Cedric Jimenez's and Sylvie Verheyde's screenplay, co-written with director Seri, becomes too labored by trying to add depth with extraneous plot developments and endless scenes of dialogue; these only serve to create serious pacing issues. Throw in a generic undercover cop subplot and Scorpion quickly begins to wear down its audience.
The film's one saving grace comes when dialogue and plot are left aside and the gloves come off. Its well choreographed and executed fight scenes are brutal and unflinching. With the camera getting right into the action, they offer a sweet respite from the banality that makes up most of the film. Fight scenes are full of vibrancy and have a gritty magnetism that contrasts sharply with the rest of the movie, which is visually quite unremarkable. Indeed, Julien Seri's direction does very little to excite until, just like everything else in Scorpion, Angelo enters the ring. Here Seri reveals a good understanding of how to grab an audience's attention. Employing a muted color palette or, in the case of a fight set in a nightclub, harsh lighting, Seri sets the scene extremely well. Losing the over-the-top antics of a Van Damme flick, Seri's fight scenes maintain a sense of realism, without losing any spectacle.
The cast offers up decent performances: Clovis Cornillac lends plenty of menace to Angelo without completely losing his humanity; likewise Karole Rocher and Caroline Proust give likeable performances but, like Francis Renaud, they are hampered by the quality of material they are given to work with.
Scorpion receives a barebones release, bereft of extras. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is adequate while the soundtrack only occasionally gets a chance to impress.
In summation, the movie is dreary and the DVD is poor. I'd say that earns it a guilty verdict and a roundhouse to the head.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Lightning Entertainment
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Unrated