Plot: Case Walker (Michael Jai White) is a skilled mixed martial artist, but he hates the direction the sport has gone. The bigger leagues push their fighters to use performance enhancing drugs and battle under minimal rules, which means shorter careers and greater health risks. So he passes up chances to fight on bigger stages for more cash, as he doesn’t want to be involved in that world. But he is willing to help train his friend Brody (Josh Barnett), who has a massive fight coming up, though you wouldn’t know it from his lackluster training regimen. Case also finds himself isolated by the others at the gym, so he crafts his own unique, DIY setup to work out with. But when it becomes clear that Brody is in no shape to battle his vicious opponent, can Case get him into fighting shape or will it be too late?
Entertainment Value: Another installment in the Never Back Down series has arrived and this time, there can be No Surrender. I know, but I do love cheese, so I had go for that dramatic introduction. I found No Surrender to be a fun fight driven action movie, with a solid story and some cool fights. The plot is predictable, but it at least tries to throw in a few twists and dead ends, while the pace is brisk and that helps the narrative flow like it should. I also appreciated that since the movie takes place in the MMA world, a lot of familiar faces pop in, from fighters to commentators, so it feels like it is really in that realm. The fight scenes are frequent, mostly as part of the lead up to the final showdown and these are hard hitting sequences. I loved the visceral feel of the fights, very high impact and not over choreographed, so they felt like brawls, but brawls between skilled, trained fighters. Michael Jai has the lead (and directs) and is quite good, while Josh Barnett, Esai Morales, Gillian White, and Nathan Jones have effective supporting turns in the ensemble. I was also thrilled to see Stephen Quadros, who still comes off like a bad ass, as well as a quite hilarious cameo from Tony Jaa. I had a lot of fun with this and fans of fight/action movies will want to give it a look.
A couple girls are topless in an odd threesome with Josh Barnett, one of whom almost shows a little full frontal, but not quite. But hey, how often can you see Barnett bench press naked women in a movie, right? There is some bloodshed, but it is all well within the usual fight movie guidelines, so bloody eyes, cuts, bruises, and other fight related injuries. The fights do come off as high impact and brutal, so they’re really fun to watch and thankfully, plentiful here. I hope to see many more action films directed by White, as he really nailed the action in this one. As for dialogue, the movie has a host of one liners and memorable moments. Barnett has great natural charisma and that shines through, while Morales channels a little over the top villain for his role. No huge moments in terms of dialogue, but a lot of smaller, fun lines that add up to a lot of sharp moments in the movie. On the craziness side of things, we have an odd confederate tattoo subplot and a wild cameo from Tony Jaa. He believes Case Walker is Cuba Gooding, Jr., so he expresses his love for Snow Dogs and even howls. Awesome stuff.
Overall Insanity: 3/10