No Rules (2005)


No Rules
(2005)- * * * 

Directed By: Gerry Anderson

Starring: David Dunn, Dian Bachar, Anahit Minasyan, Randy Couture, Gary Busey, Philip Tan, Layzie Bone, Tom Sizemore, Sal Pacino, and Pamela Anderson 

Kurt Diamond (Dunn) is an MMA fighter from Jackson, Michigan. He and his sister Katie (Minasyan), and his trainer Grady (Bachar), are all dreaming of a better life. An opportunity comes when Kurt goes on a rampage after finding out Katie's boyfriend is an abusive drug dealer. After that violent confrontation, the trio flee to California. Seeking to get involved in the fight world on the west coast, Kurt turns up at House of Champions dojo. He notices immediately that they're using a logo that his famous fighting father Kain (Sizemore) always used. After a not-so-auspicious meeting with his father's former trainer Hino (Tan), he sees a flyer for an upcoming "Fight Party", and Kurt is on his way. But along the path to glory, he will have to face physical challenges - i.e., battling Mason (Couture) and his cult (yes, a cult; more on which later), but also the mental challenges of emotionally recovering from witnessing his parents' murder. He also wants to solve the murder, of course. Will Leroy Little (Busey) help him with this? All we know is that in the world of punching and kicking, there are, of course, NO RULES!

There's a lot to love about No Rules, and we might love it even more if we could actually see what was going on. All of the indoor scenes and/or night scenes are SO dark, we have to wonder if it was transferred to DVD incorrectly. Any scene in bright daylight is fine, if still a bit junky-looking, but that's not necessarily a problem. So now that we've registered our (all-too-common) complaint about the poor lighting, we can concentrate on what's good about No Rules.

ADVANCE WARNING: Going forward, should we use the words "stupid", "dumb", or some variation thereof, it is NOT to be taken as an insult. This may seem counterintuitive, but there is a shade of stupidity/dumbness that is, well, stupid, yes, but it's so earnest and enjoyable, you cannot use the word insultingly. No Rules has found that shade.

Kurt Diamond's fighting name is Diamond Boy. When ring announcers proclaim, "Kurt 'Diamond Boy' Diamond" is on the way, it does smack of a certain lack of creativity. Diamond Boy also has trouble saying the words "Santa Monica", so he may have been hit in the head one too many times.

A certain 2005 nostalgia may also be required to enjoy No Rules, as characters wearing Von Dutch shirts and hats are soundtracked to Limp Bizkit and Rage Against the Machine soundalikes. All that is stopped during any scene featuring, or about to feature, Philip Tan, so that stereotypically-Asian-sounding music can be heard.

Sometimes the stupidity is so all-encompassing it becomes dizzying, such as when a peacock walks by in the background of a scene for no reason, a slapfight breaks out a punk rock show featuring the band The Defects, or the endless parade of cameos that are fun to see, but also make you wonder why they're there or how the filmmakers got them to be involved in a bargain basement production like this. The presence of a few seconds of Pamela Anderson makes sense, because co-director/writer Gerry Anderson (presumably not the guy who did Thunderbirds) worked with her on some of her other projects, such as VIP, Stripperella, and Stacked, among others. Less explainable are Sal (not Al - Al's father) Pacino, and Kathy Pacino, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, and Layzie Bone, not to mention a whole host of fight-world-associated people like Bruce Buffer, Gene LeBell and others. It all adds to the odd and quizzical vibe of the whole thing.

Perhaps they spent too much time gathering cameos, because the movie overall could have used more Sizemore and Busey. Busey doesn't even show up until 72 minutes in. That being said, another thing that sets No Rules apart from being a standard Puncher is that the Mason character is the leader of a cult of red-robed meatheads. They unenthusiastically chant sayings and other repetitions. We can honestly say we've never seen a meathead cult before, which was great, but not nearly enough was done with this idea. Same thing with the plot thread that Kain Diamond wrote detailed "fight books" that Kurt inherited - that look exactly like The Evil Dead's Necronomicon. Interesting ideas - not a lot of follow-through. But there are some lovably dumb fight scenes and questionable acting that power you along and take the place of those things. It's all a pretty heady brew.

So, because when any scene fades to black it really doesn't have very far to go, we're hoping that a digitally-brightened, remastered print of No Rules finds its way to Blu-ray soon. Should that ever happen, we believe it will find an audience and people will appreciate what's going on here. Unless and until that happens, we're afraid No Rules may just languish in the darkness of obscurity.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

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