In the current landscape of action movies Jiu Jitsu is a film that is familiar in many respects, but is also able to stand out in others and provide some genuine entertainment, despite its B movie tone.
Jake (Alain Moussi) is part of an order of specially trained martial artists tasked with challenging an interstellar warrior who travels to Earth every six years thanks to a dimensional portal opened up by a comet. When the visitor arrives, Jake is chased through the woods before falling into the ocean and hitting his head on a rock.
Rescued by a man named Wylie (Nicolas Cage) and two local fishermen, Jake has no recollection of who he is and is brought to the local military base in the belief that he is one of their members. When it is apparent that he is not one of them, he is rescued by one of his order so that they can regroup and follow through on their plan to defeat the alien visitor.
Make no mistake, with a premise as far out there as this film’s alien traveler, you’re not going into this film for its writing. That isn’t meant to be a slight against the movie or its filmmakers, but a way of setting your expectations for the film. All the writing is meant to do is to provide the setting of the movie and string the various pieces together.
That being said, this is basically John McTiernan‘s Predator meets Paul W.S. Anderson‘s Mortal Kombat. That sense of familiarity in the plot is enough to ignore many of its narrative shortcomings, as the main selling point now is to see this alien warrior take on Earth’s defenders.
And in that respect, the film delivers with some creative and entertaining sequences highlighted by an impressive single-take sequence featuring Tony Jaa and Alain Moussi. Given the film’s six-week shooting schedule, the sequence in question is that much more impressive, given the creativity infused into it.
Single takes, or oners, have become more commonplace in action films of late, but what Jiu Jitsu does that no other action flick has done to date is a mid-sequence perspective shift. The best way to describe it is that basically, the camera goes from Jake’s first-person perspective to a stationary third-person perspective, and then back to first-person. My description doesn’t do any justice to cinematographer Gerardo Madrazo’s work on this film, but it is single-handedly the one sequence worth seeing this film for.
The other major reason to watch this film is to finally see Nicolas Cage take part in a martial arts film. He’s a secondary character in this movie so he doesn’t have as much screen time, but he also knows the kind of film he’s in and is a blast to watch for the fun he’s having. There’s very little else to sell the film, but with a title like Jiu Jitsu in a film that features none of its titular martial art, that shouldn’t be a surprise.
What was a surprise is the level of creativity the film does bring, despite its mash-up of borrowed premises. The action is solid bang for your buck value and as stated before, does feature a wholly unique set piece that even big budget Hollywood tentpoles haven’t attempted (as far as I’m aware).
Jiu Jitsu is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, VOD and Digital. ~Paolo Maquiraya
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