As a newly established subgenre, you may not be familiar with the MMA actioner. I’ve seen four or five of them, which I think qualifies me as an expert on the subject. Er, it doesn’t hurt that they’re basically all the same, too.
MMA action films tend to be super-low budget attempts to remake Rocky whilst also being gangster films. They’re straight-to-video, are often sponsored by MMA clothing lines and feature a few professional fighters amongst the cast members. Thus far, the ones I’ve seen have been enjoyable rubbish.
Beatdown is about Brandon, a young street fighter who moves to the country to live with his father after his brother is killed in the city. He plugs himself into the local underground fighting scene, as you do, and, under the guidance of a famous fighter who is now part of the witness protection program, sets about punching people in the face in pursuit of a better life or something.
Also, there’s a pretty girl that Brandon has his eye on, much to displeasure of her whacked-out fighting champion stepbrother. Oh, and her stepfather is some kind of millionaire underground fight kingpin.
Beatdown is an ambitious film. Specifically, its ambition is to be Snatch. Does it achieve its ambition? No, it does not. In the name of having a right old go at it, it does swipe a plot twist from Snatch, which it bungles decisively and embarrassingly. In the context of what’s happening around this plot twist, it seems as though the filmmakers got bored of seeing people punched in the face and decided to shift the violence off the screen and onto logic.
To put it into MMA terms, they completed a single-leg takedown on ‘the concept of making sense’, quickly rolled into back control, secured a body triangle and choked it out. To put it into appropriate terms for a respectable film review, they’ve bollocksed it right up.
The first 30 minutes of Beatdown is plagued by botched attempts at visual flair, with several strange slow motion effects creating a fuzzy image and some ill-advised ADD-inspired editing. These calm down as the film settles in, but they make for difficult viewing.
These faults can be taken in good fun, though. You can criticise the execution all day long, but hell, at least they’re trying. Effort means a lot. I’d sooner see them get these elements of the film wrong for ninety minutes than have to rewatch some of the other things that go in Beatdown which, even though they’re better accomplished on screen, are incredibly frustrating.
Being an MMA fan is a rough business if you’re not an under-evolved, under-bathed sack of blood-thirsty thoughtlessness. Basically, everyone thinks of it as bare knuckle death matches, without rules or a place in society. You can try to explain their stupidity to them with facts and evidence, but for all the good it does you. You’d be better off explaining the rules of Jenga to a cashew nut.
The makers of Beatdown have decided that the easy way to avoid being sucked into this conflict is to depict MMA as street fighting, with some of the moves you’ll see in an MMA fight thrown into the choreography. Either that, or they didn’t notice the difference. Regardless, it makes me sigh forlornly.
If the approach to the actual MMA fights suggests that the film is being made by people with little to no understanding of the sport, other elements of the film seem to be aimed entirely at pleasing the stereotypical MMA fan, the knuckle-headed and the red-necked. The fights, while nicely put together and arguably the most accomplished part of the film, are mostly brief, bloody beatings. A
At one point at an MMA event, a wet t-shirt contest breaks out, for no reason other than ‘tits!’ While I have nothing against breasts, I just don’t get what they’re doing here, aside from making the film look like Nuts magazine.
The performances are alright. British MMA fighter, Michael ‘The Count’ Bisping, whom you may have seen in a late night Hollyoaks thing recently, takes on the largest role amongst the MMA fighters, and he does quite well. The film also features a turn from Danny Trejo, who plays main character Brandon’s ‘abusive’ father. Er, Trejo’s not so good here, guys. We keep getting told that he’s a right bastard, but he actually seems quite pleasant. Part of the fault lies with the script, but Trejo hardly seems to be trying at all.
Beatdown, then, is a frustrating affair that fails to stand out in the crowd of bad MMA action films. Most of these films struggle with the same problems, but every other one I’ve seen has managed to be more fun and entertaining than Beatdown while struggling.
If you’re desperate to try one, maybe go with Blood And Bone or Kick His Bloody Face Off. Otherwise, probably wait until later this year when the far better looking Warrior, starring the awesome Tom Hardy, will be getting a theatrical release.
There’s a selection of behind-the-scenes features, with interviews from the cast and crew, along with a brief to do about the fight choreography. (In total, these features clock in a little over 10 minutes.)
There’s also a confusing offering in the form of ‘Beatdown Contest Winner’, which is 40 seconds of film clip/interview with someone who presumably won some kind of contest.
The best feature included is ‘6 Days on the Set with Michael Bisping’. Despite his recent in-ring antics suggesting otherwise, Bisping comes off as a nice enough chap and makes for a pleasant guide through the process of making Beatdown. Again, it’s a little short.
Also included is a trailer for the film.
Beatdown is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.
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