Never Back Down: Revolt [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (1st December 2021).
The Film

Chechen Civil War refugee Anya (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald's Olivia Popica) divides her days between studying for a nursing school entrance exam and cleaning upper class houses in England while her brother Aslan (Exorcismus' Tommy Bastow) trains to be an MMA fighter. When Aslan's trainer Davy (Dragonheart Vengeance's Cameron Jack) offers him 1,000 to throw a fight, Aslan accepts but is ultimately too proud to intentionally lose and beats his opponent. Unfortunately, Aslan is now indebted to wealthy thug Julian (Game of Thrones' James Faulkner) who lost 50,000 on his bet in favor of the opponent. Anya insists on accompanying Aslan and Davy when they are summoned by Julian who sees little promise in Aslan's ability to recompense him through fighting. When Anya jumps to her brother's defense, however, her raw fighting ability catches the eye of Julian's associate Mariah (Fifty Shades Darker's Brooke Johnston) who promises who suggests that the attraction of seeing pretty women in brutal fights is lucrative enough not only to cover Aslan's debts but to transform the siblings' life circumstances. After an audition in which Anya puts up an impressive offense despite being beaten by her opponent, Mariah books her a fight in Rome for an elite private viewing audience. Upon arrival in Rome, however, Mariah takes Anya deep into the countryside to a villa where the illegal event will take place. When Anya tries to leave, she makes the discovery that she has been lured into a trafficking operation and is held prisoner along with other female fighters who are bound to be sold to Albanian brothels when they can no longer compete. Anya immediately starts planning her escape, but it soon become apparent that the only way out is straight through their captors in a fight night they may not live to forget.

Having absolutely nothing to do with Never Back Down or the unrelated duo Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown and Never Back Down: No Surrender, Never Back Down: Revolt is very much in production company Mandalay Entertainment's video arm Destination Films' (I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, Wild Things 3, Sniper 3, Boogeyman 2, Glass House 2) style of low budget sequels. Characterization and exposition is cut to the bone one assumes early on that the film's highlighting Anya studying anatomy will play a bigger part in the climax than just intimately incapacitating one extremely peripheral character or perhaps never there in the first place, the visual style is as anonymous as the droning soundtrack, and the entirety of the film looks so gray and dull that the British and Italian scenery all looks like it was shot in the same tax break-friendly Eastern European location. Cuts back to Aslan beating up various people in an attempt to discover his sister's whereabouts detract from the oppressive and claustrophobic atmosphere, as well as leave little time for character development among Anya's fellow prisoners but the surface details: Valentina (Sniper: Ultimate Kill's Diana Hoyos) is cracking up under the strain, pub fighter Lori (V/H/S/2's Hannah Al Rashid) reveals the dangers of social media in trafficking, and Valentina's caretaker (and possible lover) Jaya (13B: Fear Has a New Address's Nitu Chandra) is down on Anya's escape plan until she has "nothing to lose." This is less forgivable than the one-dimensionality of the villains which is at least entertaining, from Mariah not evincing that she possesses any formidable fighting skills until the climactic showdown with Anya or the sole explanation of enforcer Janek (Den of Thieves' Michael Bisping) that he simply "likes to hurt girls" to the comic value to be found in top-billed "guest star" Faulkner dropping c-bombs left and right. Once one accepts that, despite being written and direcetd by women - Killer Daddy Issues' Audrey Arkins and The Tank's Kellie Madison, respectively - the trafficking and "girl fight" gawking are just window dressing for a modern day take on revolt of the gladiators, Never Back Down: Revolt is lightweight entertainment where the physical blows have more visceral resonance than any of the dramatics.
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Video

Shot and finished digitally, there is little to complain about in the 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.00:1 widescreen encode that is not a defect of the dreary photography.
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Audio

The sole audio opton is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that is primarily in English with a smattering of other languages, but the plentifiul subtitle options are in keeping with Sony's region free multi-territory releases: English, English SDH, French, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Portuguese, and Spanish.
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Extras

There are no extras apart from start-up trailers.
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Packaging

A digital copy is included in the case.

Overall

Once one accepts that, despite being written and directed women, the trafficking and "girl fight" gawking are just window dressing for a modern day take on revolt of the gladiators, Never Back Down: Revolt is lightweight entertainment where the physical blows have more visceral resonance than any of the dramatics.

 


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