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John Mosby reviews urban MMA movie Beatdown.

Beatdown DVD CoverReleased By: Chelsea Films
Price: £12.99
Availability: Out now

Brandon Becker (Rudy Youngblood from Apocalypto) is an amateur urban street-fighter who takes a kickin’ but just about keeps on ticking, winning most of his brawls but with scratches and bruises a’plenty. His brother serves as his manager but has accrued a nasty amount of gambling debts that catch up with him under a bridge with his throat sliced. The locals gangsters come calling on Brandon to claim the outstanding money and tell him he has a week to pay up. Thinking smartly for a change, Brandon hightails it out of town and back to the more rural home of his estranged father (Danny Trejo). But of course, it’s not long before he’s back in trouble, trying to court the sister of a guy who just happens to be an impressive underground fighter himself (the unlikely cast Eric Balfour, from 24, Skyline). Before long, Brandon is making some friends and more enemies, rising through the ranks of the local unofficial ‘league’ of fighters, but it’s all about to get more bloody than expected…

Unfortunately Beatdown proves to be a pummelling experience on almost every level – except the right ones. It spends far too much time on post-production tricks such as light-flares, high-contrast cuts, inconsistent lighting and random bursts of double exposure which do little to enhance the story and simply serve as an annoying distraction. Even combined with a grungy soundtrack these are no substitute for real atmosphere which is duly absent from a clumsy and overwrought script that audibly creaks under the weight of formula and lack of any real passion. As in many of his previous outings, Danny Trejo’s brief appearances as Brandon’s wheelchair-bound father effortlessly acts everyone else off the screen. Sadly that’s not too difficult with a supporting cast that doesn’t rise to the challenge.

All in all, Beatdown simply feels half-hearted, serving up a list of stumbling clichés which might just be excusable if the cast could only muster a shred of believable enthusiasm or share basic on-screen chemistry to get past it.  While Youngblood can deliver an adequate punch, he simply can’t deliver conviction and lacks any charisma or charm here – unless compared to co-star and real-life fighter Michael Bisping, here as a fellow competitor/advisor and demonstrating only the basic script-reading skills acquired from his previous appearance in Hollyoaks Later (though interestingly, a previous DVD release of the movie, put Bisping centre-stage on its cover, supplanting Youngblood himself). Instead the new cover has two anonymous fighters who don’t look like anyone in the story.

Beatdown may supposedly be an ‘action’ outing that could pass an evening-in for an undemanding audience, but despite boasts of ‘superb martial arts action sequences’ and ‘guarantees to thrill fight fans’, even the brief action moments that underline and punctuate the story don’t ring that true. It feels like a generic teenage movie reluctantly injected with a bit more blood and swearing to hit the ‘18’ certificate. What we are left with is a staid, workmanlike debut outing from director Mike Gunther (stunt co-ordinator for movies such as Iron man 2, Die Hard 4 and Star Trek) and from whom we might have expected something a little better if only in the more kinetic moments.  Sadly, Beatdown proves to be a big disappointment and hits the canvas with a resounding thunk.