Meet Brandon (Rudy Youngblood, 'Apocalypto'). He likes to fight, and he's good at it, even if he doesn't look the part. Taking part in not-so secretive competitive street fighting matches, the youngster has made quite a name for himself. A shame his brother ran up quite a debt for him. In the hole for sixty G's, with a week to pay, Brandon flees town, and holes up with his father (Danny Trejo), getting a crap job moving pallets around. It just so happens that the small town has its own little underground fight club, and the allure of easy money soon finds Brandon nipping at its heels. Working his way from the bottom up, Brandon is fighting to win the girl (Susie Abromeit), fend off her psychotic brother (Eric Balfour), and possibly pay off his debt and escape with his life. With an injured, disgraced MMA competitor (Michael Bisping) in his corner, he can go places...if he can keep on winning.
At times like these, I have to ask myself, why? Why, why, why, why, why do I do this to myself? I knew the track record when it comes to MMA competitors or wrestlers trying to act, particularly in these cliche stories that near mimic the profession, like eighth rate versions of '8 Mile.' Anyone who has seen 'Death Warrior,' 'Circle of Pain,' 'Never Surrender, or 'Unrivaled' knows how lame these glorified MMA advertisements are, loaded with third rate actors, one random scene of pointless nudity, preachy messages, and constant underdog tales, like they want to be the next 'Rocky,' and they only end up being second rate cousins to the WWE films, and that isn't saying much. Seriously, when 'The Marine' titles or '12 Rounds' put you to shame, you need to stop.
'Beatdown' is more troubled than any character in 'Precious: Based off the Novel "Push" by Sapphire.' The direction by stuntman Mike Gunther is riddled with so many problems that this may as well have been helmed by a shit-flinging, spastic, drunken chimpanzee escaped from the zoo. It would have been more coherent, or maybe even artsy, that way. Every ten seconds we need some kind of blurred movement, time lapse, freeze frame, or other annoying gimmick, and the entire affair reminds you you're watching not only a film, but a really bad one. The writing, which Gunther "revised" (lord help us) is shoddy, contrived, and painfully unrealistic. Character interaction is impossibly dry, yet the actors play it serious, with alliances and vendettas forming for no reason other than to try to show who's the big man on campus...er... the dirt lot. Verbal exchanges are forced, with Trejo being amongst the worst offenders, spouting lines as though he were heavily medicated. Youngblood is a thousand times better when he keeps his yap shut, but any time he talks, it doesn't fit him one iota, while Abromeit is just scarily bad, to the point that I wanted to see the film mix with a horror angle just to see her get slashed and removed from future scenes.
Starring the world's top MMA stars, according to the back cover, 'Beatdown' doesn't even provide that, as its roster is a big pile of nobodies, compared to the recognizable faces in previous "films" of this ilk. Sporting Bobby Lashley, Heath Herring, Mike Swick, and Michael Bisping, this film's fighting talent pales when compared to others of its brethren. Of course, the acting cast is about on par with the rest, loaded with has-beens and never-wases, but it's not like this film promised me any real acting talent.
It's easy to pick apart the acting, story, direction, and stars of 'Beatdown,' but when the fights are also quite awful, one has to draw the line. Not once does a fight truly get interesting, as most are less than 30 second beatdowns, like highlight reel footage of a fight (much like dialogue is akin to highlight reel moments in a conversation). With each fight we see Brandon in, he's more and more outmatched, and takes a bit more punishment, but always it gets turned around to an easy, unbelievable win. Additionally, the true freaks are rarely the ones he's facing!
Let's just be honest with each other here, dear readers. You're not interested in this hour-and-a-half long advertisement. Movie fans would rather watch real movies with real casts (not loaded with supposed fighting stars), while fighting fans would rather watch real MMA events (not loaded with supposed actors). It's hard to give 'Beatdown' a fair shake, because it never asks for one. It panders to the lowest common denominator, and surely was made on such a limited budget that the few sales it makes on home video will ensure yet another shlock-y tale of a kid with talent being forced to leave town, conveniently to one that has a fight scene in it. It's inevitable. This is just the same stale formula mixed up for the umpteenth time.
Lionsgate brings their newest MMA stars meet actors fighting film to Blu-ray with an AVC MPEG-4 codec (1.78:1, 1080p) that is almost as jarring as the film itself. It's a crying shame, that. I had my hopes up, with the epic levels of fine detail in the title sequence...alright, I'm joking, the credits were horribly marred with aliasing pulsing all around the text, ruining the neat layered effects around them. Delineation isn't stable, offering solid shadow details one moment, and crush the next. Finer detail in facial features is often on display, and can be alluring, but with boosted contrast levels making the film look borderline animated at times, with tiny bits of ringing and color bleed, banding in backgrounds, slight aliasing, and the most herky-jerky editing I've seen in a film in some time, nothing can keep this one from beating itself up. Potential is in place, but not realized.
With a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, this track can hardly lay a hand on a track for a film that had an actual budget, and the cheapness of this production shows in sound design.
I didn't have too much trouble with dialogue, as it's mostly grunts and thoughts spoken out loud, all centered in the front channels. We get some fun exaggerated hits sweeping through the room, but they're exactly that: exaggerated. Bass pops up on a few occasions, but not enough to distract from the rest of the audio. Scenes are amazingly front heavy that shouldn't be, as fights surrounded by rings of people only have crowd noise coming from the front. In fact, soundtrack elements (which seemingly are the same few songs played over and over) are the only element that hit the rears regularly. In a late fight, we get a fence shaking in the rears as the only activity in them for ages. Range on display is as limited as the acting range on display in the film. In other words, get ready to be bored, not immersed.
There's a fairly good sized pile of extras, but don't be fooled by quantity. Each and every extra is completely skippable.
'Beatdown' is terrible, mixing acting and fighting in the worst of ways, with wooden performances, sloppy fighting, and nothing to really recommend it. The Blu-ray release has average audio and video qualities, and a pile of extras that's big in size, but short on content...much like the film. Rather than buying or renting 'Beatdown,' go revisit some of the Seagal, Van Damme, Schwarzenneger, Li, or Stallone action films on Blu-ray, even if they're the worst ones put out by each respective actor (though we linked to some of the best). You'll be much, much more satisfied with yourself at the end of the day.