When one says Nicholas Cage film, what comes to mind? Aliens? Martial arts? Low-budget, high-energy thrills? Well, the latest B-movie with his name attached to it has emerged, bizarre yet very familiar.
Typically the plots of Cage’s late work have been convoluted and full of holes. Jiu Jitsu is no different. The limp narrative follows Jake (Alain Moussi) as he is discovered in a Burmese jungle by locals and brought to an American army base where he is examined and questioned. He has amnesia and remembers nothing, but quickly realises he is endowed with bone-crunching strength and has become a master in martial arts.
The protagonist is soon liberated by a band of hooded jiu-jitsu experts who reveal he is part of their legendary crew of fighters. Every six years, this ancient order of warriors joins forces to battle a vicious race of alien invaders who arrive on meteorites. If one of the humans refuses to compete or loses, the extraterrestrials will destroy all of mankind. But if they win, the creatures will come back in six years.
All of this plot is rickety scaffolding there to give the long-winded action sequences a point, but the feature’s characters and storytelling are quite thin. The film is packaged as a Cage-filled flick, but he only appears sporadically. The star still steals the show, however, giving the wooden cast a jolt in the arm. Jiu Jitsu excels when it leans into its cheesiness. At a moment of exhausting exposition, Jake is struggling to comprehend what’s going on around him and the infamous actor’s character almost speaks for the audience: “You look puzzled. Are you puzzled? It’s okay, I’m puzzled too.”
The action set-pieces are impressive, and the decent ensemble features martial arts legend Tony Jaa who can still dazzle with his displays of fight choreography. The camera work in these moments is captivating; one scene is shot from the first-person perspective and immerses the audience into the excitement. However, this special effect quickly starts to feel like a video game. The impeccable execution of the stunt work is undermined by the puzzling use of dated, cheap VFX. The blood spurts and gun flares look cartoon-like and carelessly layered. 2020 is an age where decent CGI is easy to access, so there is no excuse to look this retro.
In the end, Jiu Jitsu is a hastily packed picture, crammed with a random assortment of elements that never really come together enough to make an impression.
Jiu Jitsu is released digitally on demand on 21st December 2020 and on DVD and Blu-ray 4th January 2021.
Watch the trailer for Jiu Jitsu here: