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As the DVD artwork proudly proclaims, “Never Surrender” stars “the world’s top MMA fighters in their first feature film!” In addition to kickboxing champion Hector Echavarria, who not only wrote and directed, but also stars as the lead, the film boasts the presence of professional fighters with names like “Rampage”, “The Spider”, “The Prodigy”, and “The Texas Crazy Horse”. If these names mean anything to you, then “Never Surrender” might be worth a rental. Sadly, my only exposure to the world of mixed martial arts is when I flip past UFC matches on Spike TV, so I’m definitely at a disadvantage going into this.
Echavarria plays Diego Carter, an up and coming martial arts fighter (you weren’t expecting him to play a neurosurgeon, were you?). One night at a Vegas club, he falls under the spell of Sandra, a mysterious blonde with a Russian accent. Sandra leads him to a secret warehouse location, where an underground martial arts tournament is in full swing.
Sandra explains to Diego all that this tournament has to offer: more money, and less rules than mainstream fighting. On top of that, the outfit running the tournament will put Diego up in a swank mansion, complete with bodyguards and personal chefs. And, oh yeah, whenever Diego wins a match, he gets to take home his opponent’s female companion, or “consorts” as they’re called here.
It’s all too much for Diego to resist, and so he gives up on his lucrative legitimate career and goes underground. His best buds (AKA a never-ending stream of cameos by other MMA fighters) try to convince him to return to the straight and narrow path, but Diego refuses to listen.
He eventually ends up in way over his head when Sandra turns out to be the consort of the big bad Russian running the whole organization. He’s a guy named “Seifer”, which sounds like “cipher”, and he’s played by Patrick Kilpatrick, who can’t seem to decide if he’s supposed to be Russian or Scottish. At some point in the film, Seifer turns extra evil, willing to kill Sanda and all the other consorts for unclear reasons. Naturally, it’s up to Diego and his posse to save the day.
No one goes into a film full of MMA/UFC stars expecting high art. All the target audience is really looking for is hot women, a plot you don’t have to struggle to wrap your head around, and lots and lots of fights. “Never Surrender” almost delivered enough on all three counts to keep my interest. Unfortunately, auteur Echavarria never allows any actual fun to creep into this story.
A little over-the-top acting, a few explosions, and a couple of goofy moments could have gone a long way towards making this movie tolerable. Instead, the plot just chugs along without any suspense or surprises or laughs. Perhaps the only real twist comes in the final five minutes: Seriously, what martial arts film culminates with a gunfight?
And the Playstation influence is all too obvious, what with the video game-style animations and title cards before each fight. And I won’t even get into the acting skills of the fighters, which are on a level somewhere between the cast of “Walker, Texas Ranger” and the acting you see in hardcore porn films.
“Never Surrender” has plenty of sex and nudity, to be sure. But as is the case with many low budget films, the “hot chicks” they get aren’t really all that hot. Is it that expensive to spring for a Playboy Playmate or a Penthouse Pet or two? But on some level, you have to love — or at least have a grudging respect for — any movie with a montage that alternates between fight scenes and full-on sex scenes.
If you’re not familiar with the pro martial arts scene, the constant influx of characters who are introduced and then disappear five minutes later will confound your ability to follow the story. But if you’re a fan of the big name fighters of MMA/UFC, you may find this movie worth a look.
Hector Echavarria (director) / Hector Echavarria (screenplay)
CAST: Hector Echavarria … Diego Carter
Patrick Kilpatrick … Seifer
James Russo … Jimmy
Silvia Koys … Sandra
Anderson “The Spider” Silva … Fighter
Georges “Rush” St. Pierre … Georges
B.J. “The Prodigy” Penn .. . Himself