Judge Ian Visser titles this effort "Lousy Film Reviewing."
"See you in the cage!"
Jimmy Garren (Jason Field, Law & Order: SVU), a former Tae Kwon Do world champion, is now retired and a widowed father to ten-year-old Katie. So when he's challenged by famous cage fighter—and former rival Nick "the Nasty" Harper (Chris Torres, Blood Rayne)—to a fight, he refuses, until Katie is kidnapped by Harper's crew. With the match being the only way to save his daughter, Jimmy travels to Brazil with his old trainer Master Chong (Jun Chong, Street Soldiers) to train with world-renowned MMA fighter Renzo Gracie and endeavor to win his daughter's freedom.
You know a sport is on its way up in terms of public interest when they start making B-movie action films about it. Mixed Martial Arts (or MMA) has been around for about fifteen years in its current form, and it continues to grow in terms of interest and economics. Whether or not it makes for good filmed entertainment is a question that still had to be answered. I can tell you from my experience that Maximum Cage Fighting is not the movie to do it.
From start to finish, nothing in this film makes any sense. Nasty tells Jimmy not to go to the police after kidnapping his daughter, but considering Nasty is holding the girl in his own house, this case could probably be wrapped up before the donuts get cold. And if Nasty wants to fight Jimmy that bad, why doesn't he just offer him a crap-load of money to the single dad? The biggest flaw, however, has to be in creating the weakest character motivation in film history. I could buy Nasty's relentless drive for revenge if Jimmy had done something truly awful, like selling Nasty's mom into white slavery or running over his dog. But Jimmy's crime runs to a less severe kind: Jimmy beat Nasty in a Tae Kwon Do match ten years earlier when they were both kids. The match is shown in flashback mode, and it's not an exaggeration to say Nasty barely got himself mussed up in that fight. I can hold a grudge as well as the next guy, but considering Nasty is now supposed to be the best fighter in the world and worth millions to boot, does this one match a decade ago really grind on him that bad?
How concerned is Jimmy about his daughter? After initially suspecting she may be a kidnapping target of Nasty and his gang, Jimmy drops her off at soccer practice then leaves her there for while he goes home and falls asleep on the couch. Sure enough, the kid gets kidnapped and Jimmy takes the old "how did this happen?" route. Hey buddy, next time somebody takes after your kid, try to keep your eyes open!
Jimmy also seems to be less-than-motivated when it comes to his training regime. With only six weeks to whip himself into shape Jimmy sure seems to spend a lot of time walking on the beach, hanging out with his Brazilian friends in bars, and socializing. Considering that Nasty is undefeated and supposed to be the world's best MMA fighter, you'd think Jimmy would hit the bag a bit more. And aside from a couple of training montages, there's nothing to suggest Jimmy, who hasn't fought in a decade, could handle a vicious, arm-breaking cage fighter.
One of the big selling features in Maximum Cage Fighting is the presence of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend Royce Gracie. Gracie is part of a famed fighting family, and has had a long and successful career in MMA. The problem is, he's on-screen for about five minutes of the film and barely does anything of note. Any fans of Gracie looking to see him in action or learn much about his technique are going to be sorely disappointed.
Even the title of this effort is half-assed. Naming your film Maximum Cage Fighting is like if someone decided to re-title The Natural as Major League Baseball Movie. I suspect that Maximum Cage Fighting is the name of an MMA magazine, show, or league, although I can't find it anywhere. Whatever happened to manly, all-American film names like "Steel Cage Justice" or "Cage Killer?"
The direction by first-time helmer Gerson Sangiunnito is as limp as a wet Kleenex. There is almost no style to the film, and the action scenes are staged so poorly that they are almost laughable. My favorite part had to be when the evil henchman gets a chair tossed at him, but misses the kick and the chair splits in two anyways. Coupled with this is some sub-par editing that leaves every take dangling a second too long; you can actually see the actors finish their lines, look at the other actor, and wait for them to begin.
Visually, this film is a mess. The transfer alternates between muddy and grainy, regardless of day or night shots or locations. Audio options include a 2-channel Dolby Digital option, or a 5.1 mix for surround sound. Special features include a trailer and a behind-the-scenes featurette featuring the actors, writer, and director.
Maybe there's a decent MMA movie out there somewhere waiting to be made, but Maximum Cage Fighting isn't it. Poorly written and directed, it's unlikely to satisfy MMA fans or anyone else looking for an action film. The result is an amateurish production that never exceeds its B-movie pedigree.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
• Behind the Scenes Featurette
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