As I make my second foray into reviewing a "Tapout Presents" movie, I've come to accept the fact that I'm Lionsgate's bitch. Sure, I tend to bitch about them, and I even took a hiatus from them, yet for some reason, I just keep coming back for more. In a way, I almost admire the studio. Yes, the Direct to DVD movies they release are usually worthless crap, yet how many other major studios are releasing so much exploitation garbage on a regular basis? I kind of appreciate that to be honest. So, while Daniel Zirilli's second foray into directing a movie for Tapout is an all around bad movie, it's at least a slight improvement in a few regards, and at times shows that maybe (and that's a really big maybe) they'll finally achieve their obvious goal of giving the world a passable afternoon action flick one of these days.
The plot, like many of these pictures, is nothing special: Danny (Tony Schiena) is a respected cop whose set up and taken to prison. In this prison, underground cage fights are being orchestrated by an ruthless crime lord named Anton Vargas (Vinnie Jones), and it's not long until Danny is forced to participate. Good thing for him that he's got a trainer in his cellmate Irving (Voice Actor Dave Fennoy.) Can Danny make it out alive? Can his innocence be proven? Why are so many Mixed Martial Arts stars promoted, yet only given small roles?
Before I get to the good and bad, I think it should be noted that MMA stars Kimbo Slice and Rashad Evans are on the DVD and Blu-Ray covers. This is notable because the image of Kimbo used is the same one used for the box art of "Circle of Pain", only it's now kinda in the background. I don't know whether I should shake my head at how cheap this is, or if I should applaud it.
Now, onto the nitty gritty. For the bad, well, there's plenty bad about this movie. While the production values have improved, the action scenes are now shot with super slow motion and music video techniques, which is kind of annoying. Also, Bai Ling is in it, but not for very long, and she was obviously cast just so she can get naked. Plus, she clearly seems like she doesn't want to be in this, and that she'd rather be doing something that's at least a little more dignified.
Apart from that, it's the usual complaints you hear about these "Tapout Presents" movies - mostly wooden performances, the fact that Mixed Martial Arts stars are promoted as being in it, yet not given much to do other than fight and curse (though that's for the best, as Kimbo Slice delivers his dialogue with all the conviction of a 12 year old), throwing in more gratuitous than usual sex and nudity (why do these things keep briefly turn into something resembling a soft core Cinemax movie?), a horrible script, more cliches than most action movies, terrible Nu-Metal, Pseudo-Grunge and Hip Hop blaring in the soundtrack, etc. Then there's Tony Schiena himself. It's obvious that the director and producers (all 22 of them - yes, a total of 22 people are credited as producers) want him to be some kind of action star, but he's just not that convincing as a bad ass or an actor to achieve such status.
Now, for the few positives. As I mentioned, the production values have improved, as it now more resembles a movie than it does a music video or soft core flick in those regards - director Zirilli
actually makes something out of his limited budget, and makes something that looks more expensive than it probably was. Also, the score actually resembles a film score for a change, and what do you know, there's more than one good to passable performance in this. Of course, it's Vinnie Jones who steals the show, clearly having a ball with his role, though Fennoy actually delivers a good performance as well, doing the best with what's ultimately a really cliched role, and Sarah Ann Schultz does a decent enough job.
I can't recommended "Locked Down" to anyone other than really undemanding fans of action/exploitation garbage. That out of the way, it's the best "Tapout Presents" movie thus far - though that's really not saying much - and it gives me at least a (most likely false) sense of hope that they'll pull off something that's at least somewhat watchable someday. It's very unlikely that will happen, but a man can hope.