Director: Michael Jai White
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Duration: 97 minutes
Never Back Down: No Surrender (DVD) – Movie Review
Never Back Down: No Surrender is the sequel to the movie Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown and it takes place two years after the events of the 2nd film. At first the film seems to focus on Brody James’ possible come-back at UFC but soon the spotlights are directed to Case Walker whom had yet to receive devoted love in the previous films. MMA fights have always been a blast to watch but the action sequences seen in here is simply superb.
The film picks up two years after the events of Never Back Down 2: Beatdown. Case Walker (Michael Jai White) was an excellent fighter but managed to end up at the wrong end of a frame and he ended up in jail where he had spend ten years of his life. The former champion now competes in amateur bouts, advising his opponents after each fight in the hopes that they might become better one day. When walking away after one of his fights, he runs into his old friend Brody James (Josh Barnett), another former MMA fighter. Their meeting is cut short but Case takes up on Brody’s invitation to the after party and the two begin talking about Brody’s comeback. He coaxes Case to join him in Bangkok as his personal trainer, knowing that both their careers needs a second life.
Once in Bangkok, Case learns that Brody has to fight the 7-foot beast Caesar Braga (Nathan Jones) in an PFC Combat promotion that is run by Hugo Vega (Esai Morales), a man known for his lacking policy on testing its fighters for performance enhancing drugs. Case wants to train Brody as fast as he can and starts to setup his training zone but Brody is reluctant to train as he knows that Bangkok is paradise on earth. He decides to continue his own training and a few young fighters with potential in Brody’s camp are laughing at the ridicule and old-school training sessions. One fighter has had enough and wants a fight with Case, claiming that old-school should need to see how well new-school does. Unfortunately for Cobra O’Conor (Eoin O’Brien) he gets a beating and Case has earned his respect in the camp. Two up-and-coming fighters, Taj Mahale (Amarin Cholvibul) and Creech (Dan Renalds), have requested to be trained under Case and he reluctantly accepts.
In the meantime, Case is getting awfully close to Vega’s PR manager Myca Cruz (Gillian White). Brody’s trainer Matty Ramos (Stephen Quadros) has had a vendetta against Case since the moment he stepped foot in the camp and uses the newly-formed friendship between Case and Myca to his advantage by babbling to Brody about it, causing Brody to fall down the wagon and accept steroids from Vega. For some unknown reason, a video of Case’s reason for prison-time has entered the digital world and Vega soon realizes that Brody will never bring enough money to be profitable enough. He tries to talk some sense into Case via several channels but fails to do so and takes some drastic measures by hiring the Russian Sambo specialist Boris (Aaron Brumfield) to injure Brody’s knee during a training session. After some back and forth, Case finally agrees to the fight but no one thought this fight would be his comeback.
The cast in the film is pretty solid with some famous names in the martial arts scene such as JeeJa Yanin and Tony Jaa filling in smaller roles. Esai Morales excels at his role as the villainous fight promoter Hugo Vega, and his current champion Caesar Braga portrayed by Nathan Jones is a frightening sight on screen. Each character, including the young fighters, brought in some diversity to the film which was welcomed. Although the storyline puts Michael Jai White as Case Walker in the spotlights, we felt that the character development of all characters – no matter the role – was balanced and well-curved.
Films devoted to the MMA fights and the psychical and mental preparations have always been filled with action but the action sequences in Never Back Down: No Surrender are simply phenomenal. Some fighting scenes go back and forth in time, giving the viewer a better understanding of the martial arts and how they can be used in fights as we see Case training vs. him actually fighting.
Unfortunately the DVD does not offer any additional footage, a shame because in such a movie, bloopers must have happened on a daily basis. An insight to the characters and their developments would have also been nice to watch but alas.
While the storyline on its own is pretty simple and often predictable, the solid casting and action sequences definitely make up for it. Knowing nothing of the full contact combat sports that is mixed martial arts, the action sequences seemed realistic and are absolutely phenomenal. All-in-all, we felt like the film came close to any movie featuring Jackie Chan, minus the comedy but perhaps that is for the best.