Friday, 19 March 2010

Jason Field

Maximum Cage Fighting (2006) sounds like the title for a documentary, or yet another fight scene compilation DVD made for fans of UFC and Cage Rage, but it’s a proper, albeit very low budget martial arts flick with some surprisingly well choreographed action.

Playing a former Tae Kwon Do champion forced to enter a grudge match is Virginian Jason Field. The profile on the website for his school, Inyodo Martial Arts, states Field has over 15 years of martial arts experience. “Training daily in Taekwondo, Kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Jason holds a Black Belt in Taekwondo, a purple belt in Jiu-Jitsu and is a ten-year veteran of professional kickboxing.” He made his starring debut in this movie.

Field’s character in the movie is hardly a million miles from his real life persona. His character, Jimmy Garren, runs a Tae Kwon Do school (just as he does) and his co-star Jun Chong is his real life sensei. Fact and fiction are intermingled; Chong also plays a variation on his true persona, as does Brazilian Jiu-Jistsu legend Professor Renzo Gracie.

Though Field is the star, this is really Chong’s project. He came up with the story and his daughter Joanna wrote the script. Chong is no newcomer, fans may be aware that he starred in a couple of Lee-sploitation flicks under the pseudonym Bruce Lea back in the 1970s and a couple of other films in the 80s and 90s. It’s great to see that he doesn’t just stay on the sidelines, he gets in on the action and has a pretty cool one-on-one fight at the climax with Harper’s trainer, played by the film’s choreographer Chul Jin M. Kim.

According to the movie’s official site, Chong himself offered Field the lead role, clearly aware he’d been struggling to pursue an acting career himself. Maximum Cage Fighting did not lead to a fully fledged career in Hollywood and according to the Internet Movie Database it remains his sole screen credit to date.

The plot of Maximum Cage Fighting echoes the likes of Commando (1985), Kickboxer 3: The Art of War (1992) and Undisputed II: Last Man Standing (2006), with the hero traveling to Brazil to learn a new discipline to take on the mixed martial arts champion (Nick “The Nasty” Harper played by Chris Torres) who has kidnapped his daughter.

The “grudge match” plot is straight-forward enough but the kidnapping plot device is absurd. When Jimmy Garren gets a call from the kidnappers demanding that he train for a fight, one that will take place in several weeks, he agrees instantly!

Action heroes don’t normally call the police, but they don’t usually play along with the villain’s demands to this extent. It’s a plot device that’s all too often forgotten, with Garren traveling to Rio de Janeiro and seeming to forget about his daughter. He even makes time for sightseeing and romance! The occasional scene reminds him and us of the distress she’s in.

Though it’s a bit clumsily assembled, with heavy-handed “emotional” scenes, OTT rock song training montages and an absurd premise, Maximum Cage Fighting is actually one of the best straight martial arts flicks of recent years and well worth checking out.

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