The Nicolas Cage Sci-Fi Action Movie 'Jiu Jitsu' Is a Ridiculous Good Time

A little Cage goes a long way in this goofy alien throwdown.

The Avenue Entertainment
The Avenue Entertainment
The Avenue Entertainment

In 1996 and 1997, Nicolas Cage went on a three-movie run that remains virtually unmatched in the realm of action blockbuster-dom: Michael Bay’s Alcatraz break-in extravaganza The Rock, Simon West’s plane hijacking opus Con Air, and John Woo’s reconstructive surgery parable Face/Off. These three films represent the height of post-Die Hard ’90s big-budget filmmaking, an era of gleefully dumb high-concept premises, elaborate stunt set-pieces, and winking humor. These movies are slick, loud, and obnoxious. Cage, having then recently won an Oscar for 1995’s Leaving Las Vegas, was the perfect actor to both ground and accentuate the rampant absurdity. 
Nobody is going to confuse Jiu Jitsu, Cage’s latest action movie offering about a team of mysterious warriors facing off against a Predator-like alien, with one of the actor’s ’90s hits. It’s not produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and it’s not trying to wow you with state-of-the-art visual effects. Instead, you can quickly spot the many ways the co-writer and director, Kickboxer: Retaliation filmmaker Dimitri Logothetis, attempted to possibly save some cash. (There’s CG blood galore.) And Cage, playing an Obi-Wan Kenobi-like figure, doesn’t really make his presence known until about 40 minutes into the movie.

The Avenue Entertainment
The Avenue Entertainment
The Avenue Entertainment

The movie’s “elite warriors must defeat an ancient alien invader” plot, adapted from a comic book by Logothetis and writer Jim McGrath, is a nonsensical mush of Stargate, The Bourne Identity, and Predator. Moussi plays Jake Barnes, an incredibly muscular man who gets chased by some deadly blades, falls in the ocean, gets picked up by a fisherman, and dumped at a U.S. military compound, where he’s held for questioning. Jake can’t remember who he is or why he’s in Burma, but he quickly makes an important discovery: He has a gift for beating up soldiers. 

Eventually, Tony Jaa shows up to free Jake, and sets off the first of the movie’s winningly staged fight sequences, which involves running and punching more soldiers. Occasionally, the camera switches to an annoying first-person P.O.V. mode, like something out of Hardcore Henry, but, with little rhyme or reason, the approach gets abandoned. It’s just that kind of movie. Ideas get picked up and toyed with-for example, little animated comic-book interstitials appear between scenes-but then get tossed away.

The Avenue Entertainment
The Avenue Entertainment
The Avenue Entertainment

Luckily, Jiu Jitsu gets the most important aspects of a junky movie like this right. Logothetis shoots most of the hand-to-hand combat during daylight, allowing the viewer to get a clean look at these talented fighters (and their stunt doubles) practicing their craft. Even if the cast spends most of their time battling an alien in a gray body-suit with a smoky blue helmet, the choreography is brisk and exciting. You don’t watch a movie like Jiu Jitsu because you want to unpack the mythology of why an alien creature travels millions of miles across space through a portal every six years and challenges a guy to a brawl. (That’s what Prometheus is for.) You just want to watch the ensuing fist fight. 

Most importantly, when Cage arrives on screen, he’s given plenty of room to cook. “No one ever gets what I mean,” his character says at one point early on, and he’s onto something. Lines like “get off my piano” are given the same absurd spin he put on “alpacas” earlier this year in the far weirder (and better) H.P. Lovecraft adaptation Color Out of Space. He’s enjoying himself, wielding a giant sword and constructing little boats out of newspapers. If he can’t always be making movies as out there as 2018’s hallucinatory Mandy, this is a good zone for Cage to be in. At a time when even enormous super-hero blockbusters are encroaching on VOD territoryJiu Jitsu is a valuable reminder that a proudly small movie can still pack a hard punch. Need help finding something to watch? Sign up here for our weekly Streamail newsletter to get streaming recommendations delivered straight to your inbox.

Dan Jackson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He’s on Twitter @danielvjackson.


Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.


Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.


BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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