Screen Junkies » never back down 2 Movie Reviews & TV Show Reviews Fri, 26 Dec 2014 23:10:52 +0000 en hourly 1 ActionFest: Michael Jai White Says Hollywood’s Afraid To Make ‘Black Panther’ Thu, 14 Apr 2011 22:32:46 +0000 Fred Topel I'd be more afraid of pissing off Michael Jai White.

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"Think unsexy thoughts! Think unsexy thoughts!"

Michael Jai White can say whatever he wants about Hollywood. Have you seen the size of this guy? Some executive in a suit isn’t going to make him back down. White just made his directorial debut with Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown, which premiered at ActionFest last weekend.

While speaking with the press, the subject of the problematic Black Panther film came up. Djimon Hounsou tried to get the lead in the Marvel Comic movie. He’d done the voice in an animated series. White told an audience panel that he’d like to Black Panther himself. Earlier he’d told the press he knows why Hollywood won’t touch it.

“Everything’s running by fear,” White said. “They think that if you narrow the audience, like if you have an African-American it narrows the audience, which is ridiculous. Action is colorless really and it’s worldwide. Wesley Snipes wouldn’t have been so significant if he didn’t sell overseas and there’s never been an African-American movie that had action that didn’t sell overseas. There’s just so few of them. You’re going to say that Blade wasn’t successful? The Last Dragon? But it’s few and far between.”

Admittedly, Black Panther is trickier than just an African-American action hero. “I would have a couple of theories on something like that. Some people haven’t grown up with Black Panther. There’s a large group of people who are running studios where the word ‘black panther’ meant something completely different, you know. I can imagine that that would have kind of a fearful connotation to someone.”

However, the general trend of limiting African-American actors to “urban” themed movies makes White scoff. “I would resist the whole idea of when you make a movie and it involves anyone black, African-American, not for it to be a crutch. Just somebody happens to be black. It shouldn’t really make a difference but when you’re asking somebody to risk millions of dollars, they find a lot of reason why not to do something instead of making a superior movie.”

White suggests a revolution is coming, one where studios won’t have the say on what movies get made anymore. “I think the day’s going to be coming where the filmmaker doesn’t have to lean on a studio and get private financing to really hit home, to really reach the audiences out there. Studios, to me, they’re decades behind. We’ve got an African-American president but they’re scared to do a movie like this. This is ridiculous.”

Take White’s current project. The series “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” debuted online at with new episodes debuting every Tuesday. “In the same situation with Mortal Kombat, you just have to go out and do it yourself. Kevin Tancheroen, myself, Larnell [Stovall], we went out and shot a concept that now is a reality. We could’ve never expected a studio to come up with that because a lot of the folks that are running things are so separate from the consumer. There may be a time where there’s a new superhero that might be black that’s not in a comic that would hit just as strong because that’s just an interesting image. I think it’s a no-brainer, just people are scared.”

Take it from Michael Jai White. People want to see him kick ass, as Black Panther, Jax or otherwise.

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ActionFest Review: Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown Sun, 10 Apr 2011 23:46:44 +0000 Fred Topel The fighting is way more intense and just more entertaining than the original.

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I think Never Back Down is the perfect title for straight to video sequels. It’s a name people may recognize, but they certainly have no attachments to it. It’s just the basic premise of high schoolers getting into MMA. That’s a perfectly good reason to give Michael Jai White his directorial debut and a chance to introduce three new fighters. The very first cut, still temporary, screened at ActionFest.

Moving up to college in Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown, Max (Evan Peters) from the first movie is putting together the next Beat Down tournament. He enlists freshman Mike (Dean Geyer) and hotshot boxer Zack (Alex Meraz). An injury stops Zack from boxing, so instead he trains with Mike, noble poor boy Tim (Todd Duffee) and comic store clerk Justin (Scottie Epstein) at Case Walker’s (White) back alley gym.

The film deals with its character crap in the first act. Mike’s parents split up when his father came out. Mike has the hots for Zack’s girlfriend, Eve (Jillian Murray). Mike sees the rejection as a boxing ring knockout. Tim offers to quit school and work so his mom can pay the mortgage, but mom makes it work by waitressing at a strip club. Why stop there? This is DTV, just have her hit bottom as a stripper!

The gay insensitivity may be realistic among teens, but I’m not sure Eve confronting Mike is really addressing homophobia. Although, they’re putting this message in a movie aimed at violent spectators, so maybe that is the way to get positive messages out there. It goes to Katrina for some deeply relevant historical relevance too.

As soon as Case starts training the boys, White’s attitude beats down any of the weaknesses of the script or acting (Sorry, I don’t believe Stacey Asaro knows anything about MMA, as her character of a receptionist ogles cage fights she streams at the office). Case cuts through movie clichés too. Don’t waste time asking his name. Don’t tell him why you want him to train you. Tell him why HE should share his awesome skills.

Justin picks a fight with some thugs who threaten him and it’s a good fight, but revenge is bad. You shouldn’t fight for revenge, and Justin becomes the bad guy. Mike, Zack and Tim have to face him in The Beatdown and it’s intense. All four fighters could have their own action spinoffs.

White finally gets to put on a show when Case takes on a gang of corrupt cops. Handcuffed, he moves and flows with impressive brutality. That scene also puts an internet age twist to the old “incriminating video.” Why reveal it in the climax? Just stream it live!

Never Back Down 2 delivers its promise of a beat down. The fighting is way more intense and just more entertaining than the original.

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