If you’re going to make a low-budget action film, you need to make sure you do as well as possible with the things you have control over. That’s pretty much script and editing – you can’t get the best directors, actors or special effects when you’re in the bargain basement, but you can at least make sure your script makes sense and the editing assembles the film in a logical order.
Of course, if you’re Jalal Merhi, then these guidelines don’t apply to you. Producer, director and co-star of his own movies, Merhi is entertaining in a sea of trash because his films sort of look okay – actors look like actors, scenes are well-lit, fight scenes are usually decent; but they make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Most of the discussion about this movie will be about its plot and editing, because everything else is blandly competent.
OIivier Gruner, solidly dependable star of the first two movies and stuff like “Nemesis” (so he’s worked for both Albert Pyun and Jalal Merhi, poor fella) returns as Dirk Longstreet. Now, it’s been a while since I saw part 2, but I’m pretty sure he was exonerated at the end of that movie, so it’s a little weird to see him living the life of a fugitive, in a van by the beach, spending his days either surfing or taking part in a weird sort of fighting league where everything takes place on rocky outcrops with a helicopter watching. Not sure of the economics of this, but…eh, if I dwell too much on how this is bonkers, by the end I’ll be tearing my hair out.
For some reason, he thinks his fiancé, left in a coma at the end of part 2, is dead, and because he’s dropped off the grid (apart from getting in touch with the people who organise the canyon-fighting) no-one can tell him his wife’s actually alive, and awake from her coma. This is, of course, entirely irrelevant to the plot.
Before we’ve had too much time to dwell on this, we’re transported to a strip club, which is also the home to another underground fight league, although the way they tell us is really confusing, with a fight breaking out in the middle of a normal evening of stripping, and suddenly everyone being super into the bloodshed. King of this league is “Spider” Webb (how many characters surnamed Webb in the movies have had the nickname Spider? I feel like it must be hundreds), played by badass actor James Lew, who’s been in a million things. Lew is awesome, but he’s fairly small and not in ripped shape, and would’ve been around 50 when this movie was filmed. Not the guy I’d have picked for my ultimate fighter, but whatever.
Turns out that club owner Octavio Ventura (Jason Carter, “Babylon 5”), is also into human trafficking, including buying a teenage girl, Sherri, from her own stepfather for $15,000. Thanks to the dumbest kidnappers in the history of the movies – well, maybe running those from “Lauderdale” a close second – she’s able to escape, although where they’re going from and to is never mentioned, and luckily runs into Gruner on the beach, who after a little reluctance, helps her out, beating the crap out of the kidnappers with his surfboard. So they team up, and what follows is genuinely one of the more baffling sequences in movie history.
Apologies for going a bit in depth on this one. So, the kidnappers are told not to return unless they’ve got the girl with them, so one of the guys goes up to a group of surfers and pays them to find Dirk and “bring him in”. The scene with the surfers appears to be improvised, and I wouldn’t put it past Merhi to have gone to the beach and hired the first five guys he saw – so anyway, after this weird little scene, they find Dirk, exactly where he was the last time, and beat the crap out of him, all the while with the kidnappers watching from a distance. Then…they just leave him and go surfing again! After a few minutes, Dirk wakes up, goes into the water and kills all five surfers via taking them underwater and drowning them, then escapes the scene, while the people who wanted him beating up and bringing to them observe and do absolutely nothing. He’s not actually kidnapped and taken to the Strip Club Fight League for another half an hour or so, leaving act 2 exceptionally dull.
The rest of the film is almost standard stuff, almost. We get one scene where Octavio is watching the fighters train, but he’s actually watching a CCTV feed of someone else watching the fighters train. Never change, Mr Merhi! Then, all his fighters, backstage, start beating up Dirk, which seems a foolish thing to do for such a big investment. After his first fight, the dreadful MC of the club says “World champion Dirk Longstreet does it again!” Er, what’s he world champion of? He was a teacher who used to be the top dog of an illegal fight circuit at the beginning of movie 1, and he’s done nothing since then to win any championship. During his apparent one-night domination of the Strip Club, he faces one bloke whose sole move is to get knocked down, then do a kip-up: seriously, he does like five of them in a row and it looks bonkers.
Right at the beginning of the movie, Octavio wants Sherri back partly because she can finger his entire organisation. At the end, he’s so upset with his dreadlocked assistant that he shoots her, non-lethally, gives her some severance money and tells her to get the hell out of his sight. Er, couldn’t she just go to the cops and get your operation shut down immediately? Have some consistency, man!
Sorry for having to spoil the ending, dear reader, but it’s so odd that I just had to. Dirk wins all his fights, then right at the end takes on “Spider” Webb, the undefeated champion of the league, and kicks his ass in ten seconds. After, bear in mind, at least four other fights that same night, which must have tired him out a bit. So he and Sherri escape, then for absolutely no reason whatsoever he climbs onto the roof of the club for another, hopefully climactic, fight with Webb…then kicks his ass in ten seconds again, sending him off the roof to his death. Wait, what? That’s it? Well, there’s a coda where Dirk takes to the road, escaping what he thinks is an impending arrest (giving us a mumbled monologue about honour or something), and a meeting with Jalal Merhi (who was a newspaper editor in part 1 and just a buddy of Dirk’s in part 2), Sherri and Dirk’s fiancé, who decides on the spur of the moment to become Sherri’s new legal guardian / boss. I have no idea either.
You may notice that Loren Avedon, ISCFC favourite, is seventh billed in the credits. How hard did he have to work for that seventh billing? Well, his entire screen time is approximately ten seconds, so “not very” is the answer. But look at those credits, where his name is misspelled, as is that of the woman playing Sherri (Cristina Rosas), with the name of the woman above him in capitals for no reason. You might also notice that Gruner is never on screen with Merhi, Avedon, his wife or any of those people, which indicates to me there were some fairly serious post-production problems (I’d lay good money on this sitting on a shelf for several years, for one).
I’d dismiss it as a shambles but this is Merhi we’re talking about, a man for whom the criticism “paid for movies just so he could be in them” is being too kind. But saying that, if you’re going to drop a million dollars on a movie, wouldn’t you at least try to make it make sense? How could he have possibly watched the finished version and thought it was in any way releasable? But his lack of anything approaching care is your gain, pop this on and provided you’re in the right mood, there’s a ton of unintentional laughs to be had.
Rating: thumbs down