Why I’ll watch Van Damme over an MMA Movie

Posted: July 14, 2010 in Marketing

Yes, that Jean Claude Van Damme.

I was recently speaking with colleague, and fellow blogger, Beardy Lollipop about movie lists and was inspired to look at MMA movies that have been made over the last few years.  Although martial arts films have been in existence for 30 + years, MMA specific films have certainly seen an uptick in recent production.  I’ll be honest though, all of them have been terrible.

In the 80s and early 90’s Mr Van Damme had a series of films that all had the same basic plot: enter a tournament and fight the world’s best fighters.  Bloodsport, The Quest, Lionheart, the list goes on.  These films aren’t formatted in the MMA style we know today but echo the old tournament days as they feature  Karate, Sumo, Muay Thai, Jeet Kune Do, Capoeira, multiple forms of Kung Fu and of course the standard ‘street fighter.’

Here are the top 4 worst MMA movies so far in no particular order of regret:

  • Never Surrender” – The film should have promise as it features Quinton Jackson, Georges St. Pierre, and B.J. Penn among other top MMA fighters. However, let’s look at the plot: When an MMA world champion is lured into the illegal world of underground cage fighting by an elusive promoter, he quickly realizes that the only way out is to kill or to be killed. Ugh, let’s move on.
  • Fighting” – The movie stars Channing “Duke” Tatum and has the following plotline:  In New York City, a young counterfeiter is introduced to the world of underground street fighting by a seasoned scam artist, who becomes his manager on the bare-knuckling brawling circuit. Enough said.
  • Never Back Down” – This one has been labeled by friends as “Never Watch Again.”  The plot: At his new high school, a rebellious teen Jake Tyler is lured into an ultimate underground fighting club in a Backyard Fight, where he finds a mentor in a mixed martial arts veteran. The first rule of teen fight club is, you don’t watch teen fight club ever again.
  • Red Belt.” This one broke my heart because it had all the potential in the world.  The movie is directed by David Mamet, has a number of MMA guest stars and yet the plot just didn’t do it for me.  The Plot: A fateful event leads to a job in the film business for top jujitsu instructor Mike Terry. Though he refuses to participate in prize bouts, circumstances conspire to force him to consider entering into an MMA competition. The characters don’t really suck you in and the plot was weaker than a house of cards. BUT, this movie did have some of the slickest grappling/jiu-jitsu I’ve seen in any of these movies.

Since this post has depressed me a bit I’m going to play around and create a list of good documentaries and movies staring MMA athletes, I think that will give us a more positive outlook for the MMA movie world.

I’ll open this up to you, am I being too harsh? Did you like these movies?

  1. Birdman says:

    I liked Red Belt. It was not phenomenal but I liked how it concentrated on the non-fighting aspect of martial arts – the lifelong dedication, self-discipline, honor. It was more of an intellectual movie than a fighting movie which I did not expect going in but I thought it was an interesting take on the life of a martial artist. Again, not the most entertaining or smoothest movie, you have to give yourself over to the plot sometimes rather than it really grabbing you, but still not a bad movie I thought.

    • Thanks for the note, Birdman. To be honest, I really wanted to like this movie for all the points you mentioned above. I just couldn’t get passed some plot issues. To your point though, sometimes you just have to let go and give yourself to a story.

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