Directed by: Jack Kaprielian
Starring: J.D. Rifkin, Jennifer Doubleday, Paul Logan, Kevin Ula Christie, Derek Montgomery, Tony O'Brien, Kristy Allen, and T.J. Storm
Jack Grimes (Rifkin) is a martial artist with a wife (Doubleday) and young son (Montgomery). He’s devoted to them, but he’s also devoted to something else...entering a winner-take-all martial arts competition with “fighters from all over the world”. After all the fighters are sent to a remote island by a man named Sato (Christie), promising the winner a million dollars, The Ultimate Game begins. However, it seems a gangster named Ray Ivan (O’Brien) has his own motives, and one of the tournament fighters, Sam (Logan), is in his back pocket. Will Jack ever see his family again?
The Ultimate Game is director Jack Kaprielian’s only directorial effort to date. While we’re sure he put a lot of work into making this movie, it seems like someone must have commanded him to stop directing movies forever, and he listened. Despite his best efforts, the movie has a junky, homemade look, bizarre dubbing/ADR, and jarring editing decisions. It also has the dreaded “fast motion” effect that ruins movies. On top of the technical issues, the actors involved are more martial artists than actors, let’s just put it that way.
T.J. Storm, who plays one of the fighters and has an awesome name, has had a long career and was even in Punisher: War Zone (2008). He’s also supposedly in Mortal Kombat as “Guest Fighter”, which highlights The Ultimate Game’s resemblance to that video game/movie. There’s even an opponent who dresses exactly like Scorpion in the tournament here. And while this was technically released in 2001, it has a copyright of 1998. At that time, while they weren’t really in their prime anymore, people were still playing games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. Those seem to be the main influences on The Ultimate Game, along with Bloodfist 2 (1990), which also has the “madman spirits martial artists away to an island to make them fight” as its plot. Additionally, Storm wears what must be the first Snuggie seen on screen.
After the “plot” gets out of the way, it’s just back-to-back scenes of the fighters on the beach, well...fighting. And while they do their thing, the other characters stand and watch them. So it’s really about 90 minutes of people with silly hair observing the fighting, and more silly-haired people jumping around and kicking the air.
Granted, there is no CGI or wires, which is certainly a good thing...or is it? Maybe in this case it could have used a little something extra, who knows? Sure, you can see all the moves, as opposed to the “quick cuts” of today but...the movie needed some professionalism. But you’ll be able to find this DVD dirt cheap in places that sell bargain-basement DVDs, and for an amateurish punchfighter, there’s certainly some fun to be wrung out of it.
Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett