By: Albert Cameron – Recently, in closing the Friday Five, I’ve been closing with “Fights, Cameron, Action!;” which is a play on the old Hollywood cliché “Lights, Cameras, Action!”. This week’s Friday Five, we’re counting down five really bad movies about combat sports. They mean well, I guess, but the finished product has just been so God awful that they made a list for your entertainment.
Criteria: being that there aren’t five notable movies about Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) period, we had to broaden our scope to include all combat sports. Combat sports being inclusive of MMA, wrestling (amateur), boxing, etc. This list is not the “end-all-be-all” list, either. If you click on the title, you can be directed to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) profile on each movie.
- Redbelt (2008); [Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tim Allen] – Redbelt, a David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross) film, hardly made this list, but it does have its faults. The idea behind the film was good hearted; focusing on the zen like practice of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) and the struggles that one gym owner experiences while dealing with the harsh realities of life. The film gets really slimy when Tim Allen gets in the picture. Like most Tim Allen movies, there are awkward attempts at being light hearted and then he tries to portray someone with a bad moral compass. Through the majority of the film, Mike Terry (as played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) is trying to avoid competing in MMA; through his bad dealings with Tim Allen and his Brazilian wife forsaking the self-induced destitution, he has no choice but to make an appearance at the event to defend his honor. The film makes no bones about portraying a famous Brazilian family dominating the sport and being scum-baggish about it. There is a reverie for the martial art, but completely jumps the shark when a jiu-jitsu master awards Mike a red belt for getting into a street fight in the entry way. Other craptastic events of note is how the Brazilian family fixes the main competition with the employ of a magician. The film was released when states were just beginning to welcome MMA with open arms and the last thing we needed was Hollywood storytelling to influence popular opinion.
- Undisputed 2 (2006); [Michael Jai White, Scott Adkins] – Let it be said: if there is a sequel to a sub-par action movie, Michael Jai White will star in it. “Undisputed” was a movie that had a story that was Tyson-esque; Undisputed 2 is a straight to video crap storm of mediocrity. In the original Undisputed, George Chambers is played by Ving Rhames, who truly does have a heavyweight boxer build to him; in the sequel, Chambers is played by Michael Jai White, who is much leaner and built more like a middleweight kickboxer than a heavyweight boxer, but we can suspend disbelief. The premise of the movie is that Chambers (who got out of jail and made it back to the world of professional prize fighting) is back in jail on drug charges …in Russia. Why Russia? Why is it always Russia? The Cold War propaganda era has been over since the 1980’s, but still the Russians are our prototypical “bad guy.” The main villain, as played by Scott Adkins, is a Russian kickboxer. The movie itself actually scored favorable reviews from IMDB, but who believes what you read on the internet? (ba dum tiss!)
- Here Comes the Boom (2012); [Kevin James, Salma Hyek] – This movie wouldn’t have been so bad if it were a). actually funny or b). actually an action movie. The fact that the UFC was behind this movie still makes my testicles hurt in disappointment. Kevin James is a schlubby teacher who is trying to raise money for school programs, that much is noble, but then decides to fight regionally because he can take a punch. Then, after getting hit in the face like he has a fetish for it, he discovers that he can actually hit back. …It was surprising to him that he could …actually …hit …back. The next part is really insulting: after making it through the regional circuit in a couple of months (the whole movie takes place in the span of a single school year), McMuffin makes it all the way to the UFC. I know fighters that have been their ass, actually earning their shot to the UFC, and this movie makes it look that easy. The jokes are mediocre, the action is unbelievable, and it was a quick plug to get MMA into mainstream movies.
- The Quest (1996); [Jean-Claude Van Damme, Roger Moore] – I liked this movie much better when it came out in the 80’s and it was called “Bloodsport.” This movie was so much like Bloodsport that JCVD allegedly hired the real Frank Dux to come up with a story (that was identical to Bloodsport), and Frank Dux even sued JCVD for not giving him the proper credit (of completely rehashing Bloodsport). A man of French descent goes overseas to compete in a tournament (like in Bloodsport), the tournament is full of other martial artists from around the world (like in Bloodsport), and JCVD has to defeat a large main adversary to win the tournament and a butt-load of honor; you guessed it, like in Bloodsport. I am actually a very big fan of Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, even the bad ones. The only difference between this one and the other bad ones that I can overlook, is that it is so similar to a movie that I actually love that there is a resounding feeling of disappointment through the entire movie. With the story being so similar, and stale at this point, you end up asking yourself why the movie was made. Action movies, by design, have terrible acting; terrible acting coupled with a terrible concept makes for a spectacularly terrible movie. Go see Bloodsport instead.
- Never Back Down (2008); [Sean Ferris, Djimon Hounsou] – If you look at the back of the DVD case for “Never Back Down,” there is a tag that actually reads “It’s a little Karate Kid, a smidge of Fight Club …a lot of the O.C.” In the sake of opinion journalism, I’ll admit that I actually paid money to see this movie in the theater, and I still regret it. The movie is about some kid with anger issues who moves to Florida, gets involved in the Douche Bag Overworld that doubles as the Street Fight Underworld, and gets all kinds of laid in the process. I’ve never watched the OC, so I imagine it’s a whole show made of everything I hated about Never Back Down. Let’s forget about the bad acting, the whimsical action, and the fact that the IFL product placement is laffable; let’s talk about the moral irresponsibility at the time. This movie is geared towards a younger audience, let’s say mid-teens to late-teens. Do you know what the problem is with that demographic? They are morons. When I was that age, I was a moron. My generation actually watched Fight Club, and we tried to start fight clubs! The good news was that this movie was so poorly received that the over-privileged youth of Southern Florida didn’t try to fight in Street Fights, but it could have been.
I imagine that it’s going to be a long time coming before we get a Rocky style movie about MMA, but even Rocky had it’s points to bitch about. Maybe we’re not ready for modern movies about combat sports; it could be the style of storytelling, it could be the tastes of this generation. What’s for certain is that as long as combat sports are accepted, someone will come down the pipe, ready to tell our story.
Thank you for reading this week’s Friday Five; check back next week when we count down five other things, just because it’s Friday. Until then: Fights, Cameron, Action!