Back in the 80s and 90s there was a tendency to cast wrestlers and kickboxers as action heroes, these days it’s mixed martial arts fighters that get the call.
From Andrei 'The Pitbull' Arlovski in Universal Soldier: Regeneration (John Hyams, 2009) to Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson in The A Team (Joe Carnahan, 2010), almost every established star gets their shot at movie stardom. Some, like Oleg "The Russian Bear" Taktarov, have carved out respectable second careers as actors, but most just don’t have the charisma to match their violent prowess. Croatian sensation Mirko Filipović for one.
Nicknamed Cro-Cop because he used to be a member of Croatia's elite Police Special Forces tactical unit, Filipović’s prolific career began in 1996 and continues to this day. In 2005 he was given the lead in the Croatian/American co-production Ultimate Force; not to be confused with the British drama series of the same name.
The film gave Filipović the starring role of Axon Rey, codenamed Sphinx, an elite killing machine hunted by the very people that trained him. Imagine The Bourne Identity (Doug Liman, 2002) with all the style and gripping pace removed and you’ll get an idea how bad this film is and why Filipovic hasn’t starred in a film since.
With no acting experience, it seems the makers didn’t feel it appropriate to challenge the giant and so he’s given nothing to do. He spends half the film wandering around an island having a dialogue and tension-free fight scenes (with plenty of opportunities to use his trademark left high kick) and gunfights against a repetitive score.
Asked to do barely a moment of acting, he hardly speaks, while this works just fine in some films, it’s just strange here. They were clearly just too lazy to write a proper script. Supporting characters having dull conversations or deliver monologues that are heavy with exposition.
The plot is threadbare and director Mark Burson clearly had no budget to work with. The film was shot in English with a largely Croatian cast and a helicopter lends some production value but there really is nothing notable about this film, save for the fact that practically every scene has been given a colourful filter in an attempt to lend some sense of artistic style to the proceedings. On this evidence stone-faced Filipović belongs in mute supporting roles only.