“Jiu Jitsu” (2020)
Running time: 102 minutes
Written by: Dimitri Logothetis and James McGrath
Directed by: Dimitri Logothetis
Featuring: Alain Moussi, Frank Grillo,, JuJu Chan, Tony Jaa and Nicolas Cage
Released recently on DVD and Blu-ray is yet another straight to home release, “Jiu Jitsu” (2020), featuring Nicolas Cage who seems to be an actor in search of something, although I really do not know if he knows what that is, because I sure do not. “Jiu Jitsu” does have an interesting premise and not only does it feature Cage but it also has genre stalwarts Frank Grillo and Tony Jaa who should all bring much to this production, it is unfortunate then that this is as every bit dull and preposterous as many other Cage movies have been in the past few years.
This movie is not great it is at its base a “Predator” (1987) ripoff without any of the budget, raw action and testosterone that made that genre busting movie such a hit as well as being as enjoyable today as it was all those decades ago. What is interesting is the fact that Nicolas Cage decided to be a part of it. Over the years since his Academy Award winning performance in the now classic “Leaving Las Vegas” (1995) Cage has appeared in a number of excellent original films but also some truly terrible movies all the time bringing his own brand of performance which by now has become known to almost everyone that knows him as an actor. What is interesting is that he does not seem to distinguish between big budget or micro budgeted productions something that is truly rare for someone of his fame and stature. The other element of Cage’s career is that he makes many movies per year so that as an audience you may see him in a terrible movie in a given month but within a few months he could be in something truly unique. One great example is in 2019 he appeared in a run of the mill thriller, “Looking Glass” (2018) and the very next film is the truly incredible “Mandy” (2018) which for any other actor could be a career defining event. What this means is that bad moves are forgotten but it to means that great movies are quickly erased as well.
“Jiu Jitsu” is based around the idea that every six years, an ancient order of expert Jiu Jitsu fighters faces a vicious race of alien invaders in a battle for Earth. For thousands of years the invaders have lost to Earth’s defenders, up until now. Earth’s future is in jeopardy. Like many genre movies there is not much more that is needed to be known plot wise or even narratively, it is exactly as described with a healthy dose of action although nothing could be said to be truly original.
Co-Written and directed (I use those terms loosely) by Dimitri Logothetis who has been making movies and some television since the late 1980s here may have his highest profile movie to date although his skill in either department is not really clear, in fact all of his previous output could be considered D movies and that is being kind. It could be something to do with his scope far outreaching his budget or skill which is illustrated clearly with this movie, it has a lack of originality as well as little in the way of coherence which is saying something as this is a fairly simple plot and narrative.
There is nothing to really talk about in terms of performances as we have Tony Jaa who has yet to prove his can carry a movie in the West, Frank Grillo who for all his tough guy bravado is incredibly one note and of course Nic Cage who is in this briefly and has categorically terrible dialogue which helps no-one.
There’s a reason why micro-budget studios and filmmakers generally shy away from science-fiction films, and it’s apparent based on the cheapjack opening scene of “Jiu Jitsu,”. “Jiu Jitsu” wouldn’t seem to need a big budget, but this movie opens with a comet—whose gaseous tail makes it look like it was put together on a budget of a Secondary School Computer Class—that streaks towards earth … slowly … very slowly … it’s coming. Suddenly, as if bored with the comet’s progress, the camera lurches towards a computer-generated Earth (also cheap). This is endemic of the entire movie, it doesn’t need to be made on a huge budget but it still looks awfully cheap. I wouldn’t really bother with this movie at all, maybe if it was streaming and there was some curiosity but otherwise give it a miss.