REVIEWS: Action & Thrillers, Video — April 10, 2012 at 3:27 am

REVIEW: Blizhniy Boy: The Ultimate Fighter (2007) + trailer

I cannot believe I’ve been waiting for a movie this long – 5 freaking years! Finally, I’ve got a chance to see “Blizhniy Boy: The Ultimate Fighter”.

A special “thank you nod” goes out to Ivan from Ukraine, one of BZFilm readers, who pointed me into the right direction. I didn’t even know the film finally was released.

To be honest, for two years or so, I’ve been searching, asking and gathering info on this film, however dropped it, since I was pretty sure it’s never going to see the light of day. It did, after all. Not to make this a blank review, I will share some of the info that I gathered up on this film

– In August of 2009, I talked to Jalal Merhi, who worked on “Blizhniy Boy”, and asked him why it is taking so long to release the damn thing. Back then, he pretty much refused to say anything specific, but he did say this:

I am sorry. I cannot answer why it has taken so long. I finished my work on this film a long time ago, and don’t want to talk negative right now“.– Merhi did help out with some casting in Canada, and he admitted to me, that it was him who brought Bolo Yeung into the film. This is what he said: “Yes, I did invite Bolo to act in this film. Although he does not have any fight scenes“.

– It is my guess, that Merhi also brought a couple of more actors into the production, such as David Carradine (with whom he was friends, as he told me in an exclusive interview), and another actor Lazar Rockwood (Merhi, Rockwood and Yeung starred together in 1991 martial arts movie “Fearless Tiger”). So, as you can see, it is mostly about connections.

Now, back to the film itself. Cung Le, a real-life mixed martial arts champion stars in “Blizhniy Boy…” as Erik, a world-class fighter from Kazakhstan, who gets framed by a local Kazakh crime boss Alibek (Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa), and thrown into prison on fake charges of killing his own friend.

Detectives (Martin Kove, George Cheung, Julia Nickson) are investigating the case, however they do not believe that Erik actually committed the murder, as too many facts point into different direction.

Meanwhile, while on the inside, Erik gets a tip from a prison guard (Richard Chaves from “Predator”) and escapes. With the help from his former army commander (Nils Allen Stewart), he escapes to America.

In the states, Erik has no other choice but to fight again, this time for Mikhail (David Carradine), Ivan (Eric Roberts) and Wizard (Gary Busey). Two sleepy FBI agents (Olivier Gruner & Victor Rivers) are spying on the bad guys, but have no proof of them holding the illegal fights.

While Erik trains for his fights with his old but loyal trainer Askar (Bolo Yeung) and his new russian friend Oleg (Oleg Taktarov), he has no idea that he’s in for one deadly surprise…

THEY ALL WORKED TOGETHER.Yes, “Blizhniy Boy…” should have won an award for the biggest number of people working on a same film, that have previously worked together. It is really a miracle how they are all linked. Take a look below.– Jalal Merhi, Lazar Rockwood and Bolo Yeung all starred in “Fearless Tiger” (1991).
– Olivier Gruner, Jalal Merhi and David Carradine all starred in “G.O.D.” (2002).
– Martin Kove, George Cheung and Bolo Yeung all were in “The Shootfighter” (1992).
– Nils Allen Stewart, Martin Kove and Olivier Gruner were all in “The Mercenary” (1997)
– Jalal Merhi and Bolo Yeung were together in “TC 2000” (1993).
– Olivier Gruner, Martin Kove and Gary Busey all were in “Crooked” (2006).
– Gary Busey and Victor Rivers were together in “Chain” (1996).
– Olivier Gruner, Martin Kove and Aki Aleong were all in “Lost Warrior: Left Behind” (2008)
– Martin Kove and Aki Aleong worked together on “Chinaman’s Chance” (2006).
– Julia Nickson and Nils Allen Stewart both were in “Double Dragon” (1994).
– I am sure I missed some, but you can forgive me, right?

To be honest, I’ve done a quick search on what people were saying on the film, and surprisingly, everyone were bashing the movie, saying things like “worst ever” and phrases similar to it.

Needless to say, seeing this many familiar actors in one movie, I had to see it for my self. So I did…

“Blizhniy Boy…” is a joint $4 000 000 production of USA and Kazakhstan, and IMDB says the shooting took place in Russia (faking up Kazakhstan), the U.S., and Canada.

The script is nothing to brag about, as it offers us another “quick to swallow” story of a fighter “forced to fight for something”, and everything else is pretty low as well – acting is mediocre at best, absolutely awful editing, and while I can handle some patriotism (which this film is full of), I simply will not tolerate crap martial arts fights in a film with “ultimate fighter” words in its title. Sadly, this is the case here, as fights are badly choreographed, and shot even worse.

“Blizhniy Boy…” is not a complete failure, as what a “true fan” can really appreciate is the actors themselves. There’s a familiar face in almost every scene, and the film goes on for 1hour 45 mins! Bolo Yeung steals every scene he’s in, I am personally thankful to Jalal Merhi for inviting Bolo, as the 60 year old (in 2006) tai-chi master shows that he’s still a force to be reckoned with.

Same can be said about Richard Chaves, whom I personally haven’t seen since his “Predator” days in the late 80s. Cung Le (who went on to make “Dragon Eyes” with Van Damme) does not shine here, while having the main part, but we can excuse him – he’s a professional fighter after all.

 Some more info…– From what I’ve heard, it took producers $10 000 to find Bolo Yeung and get him into the film.While interviewing Oleg Taktarov in 2010, I asked him about the film, and he said this:

Its a good, quality B-movie. Somewhat similar to those, people used to watch in the early 90s, the ones with Van Damme for example. I agreed to do the film, because the producer was my friend Eric Ialgashev, one of the new Kazakh producers, who actually made something outside of his own country. Other thing is that in Kazakhstan, even money sometimes can be political, so he cant finish the film, since sometimes “taking money” from the wrong people can cause problems. The film itself is very patriotic, the Kazakh officials made some huge efforts to make finish the film.

It seems to me that director of “Blizhniy Boy…” Erken Ialgashev shot two movies back-to-back with the same actors (Kove, Gruner, Aleong, Chaves). One is “Blizhniy Boy…”, and the other one that came after it was “Lost Warrior: Left Behind”, which is also considered a “lost film – I was searching for it along with “Blizhniy Boy…”, didn’t find anything.

– I took some time to “edit” the information on “Blizhniy Boy…” on the IMDb, as some actors weren’t even credited in the film (such as Victor Rivers and Julia Nixon), while others were credited with wrong names or no names at all.

– “Blizhniy Boy” – translated from Russian means “Close combat”. I never understood why they decided to have half of film’s title in Russian, and the other half in English, even though it was a joint production.

The biggest mistake here was made with the fights – which is why someone would want to see the film in the first place. And while Cung Le spends his strength and energy fighting some unknowns, Tagawa, Roberts, Busey get their limited screen time and get paid.

Although I love them, but for this particular movie, it might have not been the best way to go – instead of putting money into them, it might have been wiser to hire more known fighters or spending money on more action or better fight choreography.

To make a long story short – if you know at least some of the actors that I’ve mentioned in this article, see the film. If you are a martial arts fan – you might as well skip “Blizhniy Boy”, as it is nowhere near “Undisputed 2”, for example.

You can also watch the film if you want to see Kazakstan kicking ass, with Vietnamese (Cung Le), Chinese (Bolo Yeung), American (Martin Kove) actors on its side.

The film did not hold up to my expectations, as they were probably too high, but I’d lie if i said I did not enjoy it. A fat, nearly 4 minute trailer is below.




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