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Pit Fighter (July 19/05)

There've been a lot of bad straight-to-video action flicks over the years, but this is surely the worst. Saddled with an uncommonly wooden leading man, an incoherent sense of style, and some genuinely awful dialogue, Pit Fighter never feels like anything other than a complete and utter waste of time.

The film stars Dominique Vandenberg as Jack, a mysterious figure who wakes up after a fierce gun battle with a case of amnesia. With the help of a friend named Manolo (Steven Bauer), Jack is soon making a living as an illegal (and unstoppable) pit fighter. But it's not long before Jack's memories start flooding back, the majority of which feature him gunning down seemingly innocent people in cold blood. Jack's pit fighting days come to an abrupt end, though, after refusing to throw a match for a powerful mob kingpin - leading to a confrontation between Jack and about 100 of said kingpin's goons.

The most obvious problem with Pit Fighter is Vandenberg, a soldier-turned-actor who is completely devoid of both talent and screen presence; that he's evidently a decent athlete is certainly not enough to carry him through an entire film, despite the best efforts of writer/director Jesse Johnson. But the film's fight sequences - generally the saving grace for a movie like this - have been rendered incoherent by Johnson's overuse of slow-motion cinematography and rapid-fire editing (it certainly doesn't help that they're terribly choreographed, with participants noticeably missing each other by at least an inch).

And then there's Johnson's inept screenplay, which - aside from being packed with predictable plot developments and cliches galore - features some of the most mind-numbingly pompous dialogue one could possibly imagine (ie at one point, Jack offers up this little nugget, via voiceover: "in this world, there's no code of honor...just survival of the fittest.") Finally, there's the ludicrous conclusion, which finds Jack literally surrounded by several dozen armed thugs in a semi-circle - all of whom proceed to open fire and subsequently miss their target. All the while, Jack hits everyone he aims for and even has time to search for a new gun when he runs out of ammo. It's pure silliness that feels completely out of place, primarily because Johnson's been going for a gritty, realistic vibe up until that point (unsuccessfully, natch).

It's hard to imagine even the most hardcore action fan embracing Pit Fighter, a movie so incompetent that even the occasional moments of brutality come off as dull.

no stars out of

About the DVD: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment presents Pit Fighter with both full-frame and letterboxed transfers. There are no bonus features.