The Plot – Mike Terry is a Jiu-Jitsu instructor who shuns competitive money fights because he believes competition weakens a fighter. He seems content to run a small dojo west of Los Angeles until a series of events begin to intrude on his daily life forcing him to evaluate his principles, and their impact on others.
The Review – This is not an action film. This is a drama about the internal struggle of a martial artist, and his principles. The movie trailer, and IMDB reviews would lead you to believe that this is a film of emotional substance. Fans a David Mamet showered IMDB with praise for message of this film, and its artistic qualities. I must have missed all that.
While Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a good performance, and spouts some memorable lines, I found the lack of character development makes the movie fall flat. Now I can appreciate the minimalist approach to setting up the story arcs, but when the film ended (with a hug) I found myself asking what did any of the characters have to do with the story?
One of Mike Terry’s students is a brooding police officer. Maybe it’s not important to know why he’s brooding, or what troubles he has with his wife, but these plot points are just dropped on the viewer as factual items. When the officer in question commits suicide, I was neither compelled to feel the honor of that act, or the impact it had on his family. In fact, the introduction of his wife could have been completely left out, and it wouldn’t have changed the impact of that scene.
Mike Terry’s wife chides him throughout the film for not being financially responsible, or more to the point his principles keeping him in the poor house. When she sells him out, I really didn’t see why she would have stayed with him for over five years in the first place.
Given the one-dimensional snapshots of every character in the film, the story was very predictable, and only Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance as Mike Terry led me to believe something was about to happen. That’s probably my largest complaint about the film. The emotional moments that are meant to inspire the audience, seem pointless because of the lack of character development.
Grade: C- (Maybe this is the type of movie that requires multiple viewings to get the point)