DVD Review: Street Warrior (2008)

This Warrior
Hits the Streets
On DVD 4/21/09

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Forget Fight Night-- as far as Hollywood is concerned, you can consider this Fight Week. While of course, we still have Earth Day on April 22 and “Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day”--as my politically correct Hello Kitty Calendar refers to the date which was formerly dubbed “Bring Your Daughter to Work Day” on the 23rd-- whether it's on DVD/Blu-ray or at the theaters, this week it's all about the smack down.

With the arrival of Mickey Rourke’s multiple award-winning tour de force performance in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, the new Channing Tatum and Terrence Howard none-too-subtly named big screen opus Fighting, or this ridiculous made-for- cable television blood-gusher and bone-smasher—Street Warrior-- those who are so inclined can be sure to get their fix of as Clockwork Orange’s Alexander DeLarge called “a little of the old ultra violence.”

Having missed the press screening, I can’t offer any solid advice in regards to Fighting, but when you see Street Warrior only a few feet away on the shelf from The Wrestler, let’s just say you should go with your gut in picking up the award-winning, critically lauded, and audience revered Wrestler as opposed to this misguided, cliché heavy hybrid of Best of the Best, Gladiator, Spartacus, and Fight Club that’s been blended together with a nasty steroid dose of MTV and UFC reruns.

Essentially you could call director David Jackson's Street Warrior, the type of C-movie that would have probably been a solid hit overseas if it starred the straight-to-cable or DVD genre’s usual suspects like Wesley Snipes or Steven Seagal but after only five minutes, you realize that it's something both of those actors would've turned down immediately.

Basically, it centers on a dogfight like underground club of blood, sweat, and brutality that replaces the mistreated dogs with mistreated people who are still referred to by their corrupt, thinly disguised slave driving owner as “dogs” in a no-holds-barred dungeon like club he calls The Gauntlet.
The film begins with a music video style credit sequence overdosing on blood, money, gratuitous female nudity, fighting, shirtless juiced up men—one of whom deliver an instantly laughable faux tough guy line like “you want to roll with the big dogs” while decked out in a swastika tattoo in a near-trailer of the unbearable 88 minutes to come.

Despite this, the poor screenwriter Alex Greenfield tries desperately to build a solid, revenge-based story with an all-American hero we can root for upon the arrival of Purple Heart awarded Iraq veteran Jack Campbell (Max Martini).

Having been dishonorably discharged and stripped of his rank for beating his out-of-control commanding officer so badly while in combat Tikrit that the man spent three months in the hospital, Jack Campbell is barely off his hometown bus two minute before he gets involved in a violent convenience store altercation and saves his old high school classmate (Valerie Cruz) from a group of unruly, clichéd gang-bangers. And sure enough this only-in-the-movies reunion isn't lost on the local crooked cop Watkins (Jadeyn Lund) who greets Jack with the tired line, “back in town a half an hour and already giving me headaches.”

However, it’s only the first of several headaches to follow for both Jack and the audience when he discovers that his little brother—who had fought in the horrific Gauntlet run by the ironically titled Mr. Pope (Nick Chinlund)—is now laying comatose and unresponsive in the hospital. Having seen the gory smack down with our own eyes, we are just as engaged as Jack is to see justice done, especially considering that his brother’s wife Sarah (Erin Cottrell) is expecting a child.

Following Sarah's lead that strip club manager George Batista (Beautiful Girls star Max Perlich) was somehow involved, Jack starts to follow the trail that leads to an obligatory knock down, drag out fight at the seedy establishment but when a spotter captures Jack's capable fighting skills with his video equipped cell phone, soon Jack is scouted by Pope and his obligatory femme fatale (with a soft spot) sidekick, the beautiful Ms. Lee (Jane Park Smith).

Dangling the life of his sister-in-law as bait when Sarah is kidnapped by the Gauntlet owners—Jack has no choice but to—not so much suit up as strip down to his bare chest for the primal fights staged for hardcore gamblers, NFL stars, and the amoral rich clientele who either watch online attend on a nightly basis at Pope’s club where “you all know the rules; there are none” and he guarantees viewers will always “see some blood.”

Obviously, Jack becomes the Russell Crowe-esque Gladiator style hero of these human dogfights and although his brutal path to revenge is filled with cuts, bruises, possible bone fractures and breaks, you're always able to predict exactly where the film is going. And thus, it’s far less effective then the recent releases from RHI Entertainment and Genius Entertainment including the surprisingly entertaining Swamp Devil and the easily forgettable but still watchable Mask of the Ninja.

While at its core fans of classic Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal movies along with those who enjoyed Best of the Best may take some comfort in its familiarity, ultimately for those who’ve seen this storyline done so much better a number of times—you’ll discover that there is nothing memorable about Street Warrior aside from the fact that you realize 88 minutes is 88 minutes longer than you’d ever wish to spend in the company of 98% of the film’s characters.

So this week, if you feel the urge to “get ready to rumble,” place your bets on the exceptional and brave turn by Mr. Rourke instead of the powerful but wasted Mr. Martini.