1. Big fan of Michael Jai White, which I made clear in my other reviews, especially Blood and Bone, which is a must-see. Called him “the most under-utilized MMA asset in Hollywood.”
2. Guess he got tired of waiting for a phone call, because MJW as “director” cast himself in Never Back Down 2 which, for a low budget effort, was a really tight little indie and seems to have given his career a well-deserved second (third?) wind.
3. At 48 years young, MJW is 15 years younger than Steven Seagal, who keeps cranking out Direct To Video productions that should more correctly be called Direct-to-Forget. Except that MJW looks ten years younger than he actually is, and SS looks ten years older than he actually is.
4. This film, NBD3, is unlike anything MJW has done before and even unlike NBD2. It can be considered MJW’s personal version of Rocky. (And of course has virtually no connection to NBD1 other than the name.) The script is slow in spots but contains sly humor one does not usually find in these sorts of films. The fight scenes totally rock and there is a new “trope” that MJW (as director) seems to have invented that involves “forecasting” a fight just before it happens, using slo-mo shot in Black and White. Cool!
5. There are two very strange cameos by Tony Jaa and Rampage Jackson which I am still trying to figure out. Ditto for another walk-on by a female Thai martial artist who looked like she weighs 75 pounds soaking wet. And the “big finish” for the story is taken straight from the playbook in Red Belt, another great (and overlooked) MMA film.
RECOMMENDED (!) as both solid entertainment and something different and unexpected. And please remember to see Blood and Bone and NBD2 if you have not already. Also rec Bronson in 1975’s HARD TIMES.
Review by A_Different_Drummer