Review: ‘King of Killers,’ starring Alain Moussi, Marie Avgeropoulos, Georges St-Pierre, Stephen Dorff and Frank Grillo

October 15, 2023

by Carla Hay

Shannon Kook, Gianni Capaldi, Kevin Grevioux, Ryan Tarran, Marie Avgeropoulos and Alain Moussi in “King of Killers” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“King of Killers”

Directed by Kevin Grevioux

Some language in French with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in Tokyo, the action film “King of Killers” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Americans and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A master assassin assembles other assassins in a competition to try to kill him to prove their worth.

Culture Audience: “King of Killers” will appeal primarily to people who are just want to see a movie with mindless violence and don’t care if the movie’s story is awful and filled with plot holes.

Frank Grillo in “King of Killers” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“King of Killers” is a terribly conceived mess with bad acting and a nonsensical plot about an assassin overlord pitting other assassins against each other. For an action movie, there are too many scenes of people having boring and witless conversations. Avoid this tone-def and idiotic flop.

Written and directed by Kevin Grevioux, “King of Killers” starts off by showing protagonist Marcus Garan (played by Alain Moussi) being attacked in a warehouse. Marcus is a “wet man” for the U.S. intelligence community, with options to be hired by non-U.S. entities. Will he survive this attack? The movie makes people wait a long time to find out the answer, because it then switches to a flashback that took place one year before.

In this flashback, Marcus is shown to be a loving husband and father. His wife is named Karla Graran (played by Amy Groening), and his daughter is Kimberly Garan (played by Zoe Worn), who’s about 8 or 9 years old. Marcus speaks to Kimberly in French.

Stephen Dorff shares top billing for “King of Killers,” but his role is a useless cameo. He plays a character named Robert Xane, who asks Marcus to do a job for the next day. However, Marcus declines the offer because the next day is the wedding anniversary of Marcus and Karla.

One evening, Marcus is at a bar called Coal Train, where he has certain people under surveillance. In a back room of the bar, there are three men at table. One of them holds what’s called a cyrstal matrix unit that can replace hard drives of any kind. It can contain information for over a million supercomputers.

Marcus barges in on this meeting and gets into a shootout with about five men. He survives, but unbeknownst to Marcus, his wife Karla had followed him to the bar. She was standing outside the room where the shootout took place. And to Marcus’ shock, he sees that Karla has been killed.

The movie then fast forwards to on year later. Marcus is raising Kimberly with the help of Karla’s mother. He’s still working as a secretive operative. Marcus gets a mysterious phone call from a Scottish man named Roman Korza (played by Gianni Capaldi), who tells Marcus about a job offer that will pay $10 million and requires a trip to Tokyo.

Roman is vague about the details of the job, such as who’s doing the hiring and what the job entails. Roman says that Marcus will get the details after Marcus meets with Roman in Tokyo. Marcus thinks he doesn’t have enough information, so he turns down the offer.

But then, Kimberly ends up in hospital because she has an enlarged heart. The medical diagnosis is that her heart is deteriorating and will lead to heart failure, unless she can get a heart transplant, which is a high-priced medical procedure. Marcus suddenly sees how $10 million can come in handy, so he takes the job in Tokyo. (“King of Killers” was actually filmed in Winnipeg, Canada.)

When Marcus arrives in Tokyo, Roman takes him to a remote mansion, where Marcus finds out what the “job assignment” is really a twisted game set up by a self-described master assassin named Jorg Drakos (played by Frank Grillo), who has assembled other top asassins from around the world. Jorg announces to the people in this assembled group that their task is to see which one of them can kill him first. Whoever “wins” by killing Jorg first will get the $10 million. Anyone who doesn’t want to participate will be killed by Jorg. In other words, it’s not a fair fight.

Besides Roman, the other people in this group are:

  • Scott Angus, a deposed J2 member, who set off a war between terrorist factions.
  • Asha Khanna (played by Marie Avgeropoulos), an ex-MI6 operative, who left MI6 after 16 years because she got tired of the “rat race.” Marcus already knows Asha as an assassin rival.
  • Dyson Chord (played by “King of Killers” writer/director Grevioux), a former U.S. Marine Force re-con commander for Dark Forces and a former National Security Agency sweeper.
  • Rick Nigel (played by Ryan Tarran), a former ASIS International security employee, who plays many sides and almost “put a hit on himself.”
  • Ren Hiro (played by Shannon Kook), a Japanese-trained protector whose services go to the highest bidder.
  • Zach Hebron (played by Dennis Lafond), a freelance sniper for military companies.

One of the people in the group doesn’t go far in the game, because this person refuses to participate and gets shot to death by Jorg. The rest of “King of Killer” is a vapid and turgid series of scenes where some of the assassins decide it’s better to eliminate each other first, and the last person standing will be the one to take on Jorg. It’s as stupid as it sounds. Needless to say, Jorg wants to kill them too. Jorg wears a ridiculous-looking green goblin mask as part of his rampage.

Even worse, there are scenes where Jorg could easily be killed by any of the other assassins in the room, but that doesn’t happen, because these dimwits think it’s better to stand around and talk. That’s essentially what clogs up much of the screen time in “King of Killers,” which is truly bottom-of-the-barrel garbage filmmaking. Not even a “plot twist” at the end can redeem this awful movie, which hints at a sequel that will most likely never happen.

Lionsgate released “King of Killers” in select U.S. cinemas, digital and VOD on September 1, 2023.

Review: ‘Jiu Jitsu,’ starring Alain Moussi, Frank Grillo, JuJu Chan, Tony Jaa and Nicolas Cage

April 17, 2022

by Carla Hay

Nicolas Cage and Alain Moussi in “Jiu Jitsu” (Photo courtesy of The Avenue Entertainment)

“Jiu Jitsu”

Directed by Dimitri Logothetis

Culture Representation: Taking place in Burma, the sci-fi action film “Jiu Jitsu” features a cast of white and Asian characters (with a few African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class, mercenaries and U.S. military officials.

Culture Clash: Several human beings battle a death warrior from outer space who comes to Earth every six years from a comet-created space portal. 

Culture Audience: “Jiu Jitsu” will appeal primarily to people interested in sci-fi action movies that are inferior imitations of “The Predator” movie franchise.

JuJu Chan in “Jiu Jitsu” (Photo courtesy of The Avenue Entertainment)

“Jiu Jitsu” has nothing to do with the martial arts craft of jiu jitsu, just like this movie has nothing to do with high-quality entertainment. It’s just a messy parade of sci-fi action schlock with tacky visual effects. It also blatantly rips off elements of “The Predator” movie franchise.

Dimitri Logothetis, a filmmaker of hack action movies, directed the mind-numbing “Jiu Jitsu,” which really is nothing but corny fight scenes strung together with abysmal dialogue, all lumbering along until the very predictable ending. Logothetis co-wrote the horrific screenplay with James “Jim” McGrath. “Jiu Jitsu” could have easily been a short film, but it’s dragged out to tedious levels because of repetitive battle scenes.

The gist of the flimsy story is that a mysterious, muscle-bound American man named Jake (played by Alain Moussi) finds himself at the center of an intergalactic battle that has been taking place on Earth for centuries. Every six years, a comet opens up a portal on Earth. A death warrior named Brax emerges from the portal to fight a group of humans who call themselves Jiu Jitsus. Their Jiu Jitsu leader is “the chosen one” who must fight Brax, or else everyone and everything on Earth will be killed.

Jake is first seen in “Jiu Jitsu” running frantically in a forest in Burma, as if something is chasing him. (“Jiu Jitsu” was actually filmed in Cyprus.) Jake falls over a cliff and plunges into a large body of water. A middle-aged fisherman (played by Raymond Pinharry) and his wife (played by Mary Makariou), who don’t have names in the movie, rescue Jake and give some medical attention to his wounds.

It’s soon apparent that Jake has amnesia. The fisherman’s wife takes him to a nearby U.S. Army camp. The commanding officer in charge is a stern and impatient leader named Captain Hickman (played by played by John Hickman), who orders a buffoonish subordinate named Tex (played by Eddie Steeples) to act as a translator. Tex isn’t very fluent in Burmese, so he predictably botches some of the translating.

That’s when the fisherman’s wife tells them about the cosmic portal and the outer-space death warrior, whom she calls Dat Daw Taung. These Army guys think it’s just a bunch of rambling gibberish from a superstitious person. Of course, there would be no “Jiu Jitsu” movie if what she was saying didn’t turn out to be true.

Soon, Jake finds himself being interrogated by an Army intelligence officer named Mya (played by Marie Avgeropoulos), a no-nonsense type who doesn’t know what to believe when Rick says that he has no idea who he is and what he’s doing there, but later he has a vague recollection: “I’m here to do a job.” Mya thinks that Jake might be some type of spy. He’s held captive until the Army figures out what to do with him.

While Jake is in captivity, another captive breaks free from the prison compound. His name is Kueng (played by Tony Jaa), and he insists that Jake go with him. They run off into a field together. And lo and behold, emerging from the field, like beanstalks suddenly spurting upward from the grass, are three other “warriors”: tough-talking Harrigan (played by Frank Grillo), quiet Forbes (played by Marrese Crump) and courageous Carmen (played by JuJu Chan), who not surprisingly ends up in a thrown-together romance with Jake.

And so, off these five “warriors” go as they kick, punch and wield weapons (such as swords, guns and knives), with an Army leader named Captain Sand (played by Rick Yune) in hot pursuit. Captain Sand has some forgettable subordinates who help him in this mission. The five renegades inevitably encounter Brax (played by Ryan Tarran), who quickly heals from any wounds, thereby making him hard to kill.

Brax is dressed in scaly armor and has a full-sized helmet that shows light blue space where a face should be. Occasionally, outlines of eyes and other facial features show up in this blue space, using cheap-looking visual effects. Brax’s point of view is shown a few times as X-ray vision that looks like it’s bathed in a heat glow. It’s a direct ripoff of Predator’s vision from the “Predator” movies.

Nicolas Cage shows up 39 minutes into the 102-minute “Jiu Jitsu,” which is just another B-movie where he plays yet another unhinged, eccentric character. In “Jiu Jitsu,” Cage is a wilderness-dwelling loner named Wylie, who ends up joining Jake and his team. Wylie seems to know quite a bit about Brax and gives advice, much of it unsolicited and sometimes unheeded. In his spare time, Wylie likes to make triangular hats out of newspapers. These hats are not the cone-shaped head coverings that used to be called “dunce caps” in the old days, although “dunce caps” would not be out of place in this dimwitted movie.

Cage’s total screen time in “Jiu Jitsu” is only about 15 to 20 minutes, but he does have one battle scene with Drax that seems to be the main reason why Cage was hired for this movie. Cage gives a deliberately hammy performance that’s meant to show he knows he’s in a stinker of a movie. However, his comedic self-awareness just seems out of place in a movie where all the other cast members act like they’re in a serious action film. If Cage is openly smirking, it might be because “Jiu Jitsu” was an easy multimillion-dollar salary for him. The joke is on the “Jiu Jitsu” producers who forked over the money for a rehashed and unoriginal performance that Cage has done in dozens of his forgettable action flicks.

Sometimes, when an action movie doesn’t care about having a good story, intriguing characters or memorable dialogue, the movie makes up for this lack of appeal by having dazzling action scenes. That’s not the case with “Jiu Jitsu,” which is filled with nothing but unimaginative fight sequences. None of the movie’s characters has an interesting story, although “Jiu Jitsu” tries to throw in a “plot twist/reveal” about the background of one of the characters. This “plot twist/reveal,” which is toward the end of the movie, is not surprising at all. The only thing surprising about “Jiu Jitsu” is that filmmakers actually thought that this abominable garbage wouldn’t be such a flop.

The Avenue Entertainment released “Jiu Jitsu” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on November 20, 2020. Paramount Home Entertainment released the movie on DVD on December 22, 2020. “Jiu Jitsu” is also available on Netflix.

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