The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at] I'd love to check out what you got.



Hi everyone, it's been a while since I checked the page, and I wanted to make a few announcements.

First and foremost, it appears a dubious site has claimed the old url, meaning any link in any review that goes to the old mattmovieguy url is corrupt. I'm in the process of trying to remove them all, but it's a lot! It's best not to click on any link without hovering over it first to make sure it doesn't have mattmovieguy in the url.

Second, it appears since my last trip to the blog, Photobucket has decided to charge for third party hosting, meaning none of my images are appearing anymore. That's simply an aesthetic issue, but still annoying.

Thank you all for your patience, and again, hopefully this will all be fixed soon.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Never Surrender (2009)


As I'm sure many of you know from rockin' with me here at the DTVC, I'm a huge fan of the UFC. When I saw Never Surrender at the video store, and all the UFC stars it had on the cover, I was like "man, I need to review that!" But one thing after another came up, and it wasn't until I saw Confessions of a Pit Fighter with Hector Echavarria that I remembered that Never Surrender existed. I actually watched it a few weeks ago, but the review was pushed back after the passing of Patrick Swayze.

Never Surrender is about a fictitious MMA star, Hector Echavarria, who has just won the championship belt, but something inside him is burning for more. So he just happens to see a hot woman at a club that just happens to work for a guy who just happens to have an underground fighting circuit. The way it works, each fighter is paired with a hot prostitute, and when he loses, the guy who beats him gets his prostitute for the night. Anyone who watches the kinds of movies we watch knows that guys who run underground fighting rings can't be trusted, and it's only a matter of time before this one shows his true colors too, and our hero has to take him down.


Not good. Big ol' pile o' blah. First off, the UFC guys all have cameos, they aren't featured like the cover says. None of them, except Rampage and Anderson Silva (because he doesn't talk), can act. Echavarria not only also has trouble acting, but he wrote and directed this, and it's bad on those levels too. That's an extreme disappointment, because Confessions of a Pit Fighter was actually pretty good. The plot is crummy, and the action doesn't make up for it. Having just seen a movie with a similar paradigm, To the Death, executed much better, Never Surrender was sloppy and irksome in comparison.

Confessions of a Pit Fighter was written and directed by Art Camacho, which might explain why it was so much better. Camacho's gone through his growing pains, believe me, and he has a few bad reviews on this site to attest to that. Just the same, I can't give Echavarria a free pass, especially when he has quite a few other movies coming down the pike that he wrote and directed. The biggest issue I had was how he didn't make his hero likable. Why am I rooting for this moron? In Confessions, his character was endearing and flawed, and nothing about him seemed contrived. This guy was just an ass. My favorite part was when his girl asks him "how do you know this will work?" to which he replies "because I'm always right", except the whole film is based on the idea that he was so wrong about this guy running this underground fighting circuit. He has a movie called Hell's Chain that was supposed to be released last August, and another called Duel of Legends that has Cary Tagawa that should be released in December. We'll see what happens with those two.


I can't blame BJ Penn, Heath Herring, or George St. Pierre for not turning in inspired performances. The script was so atrocious, Sir Laurence Olivier would've been hard pressed to make it work. What sucked was how St. Pierre and Penn were featured on the cover, and they were barely in it. I love BJ Penn, but he was just ill at ease on the screen. And his fights weren't well choreographed. I think it would've been okay to showcase his jiu jitsu more. Have him fight a guy that was way bigger, take his back, and choke him out. How cool would that be? St. Pierre barely fought at all, and when he did it was poorly choreographed too. I think for both of them they'd have to be trained to fight in a way that works for an action film, unless all they're doing is a cameo where they get their ass kicked in a Seagal film.

Rampage, on the other hand, was great in his one scene. I wonder if he ad libbed his lines, because they sounded much better and much more natural than everyone else's. Word on the street is UFC president Dana White is less than stoked that Rampage is putting off a fight with Rashad Evans so he can act in the new A-Team movie. The unfortunate reality for White, and the UFC, is that Rampage actually can act, and he's entertaining. If the A-Team movie is successful, the offers will just keep pouring in, and being an action star is a much more lucrative occupation than a UFC fighter. Their loss is our gain.


Anderson Silva, the UFC Middleweight champ, is in this for one fight scene with Echavarria. Out of everyone, his martial arts looked the best onscreen. I know he doesn't speak great English, but to be a bad guy's hatchet man, he doesn't have to. I could see him in something like a Transporter 4 slugging it out with Jason Statham. That would be a better use of his talents than fighting with Hector Echavarria. One small note, Silva was born on April 14, 1975, which makes him another Aries. I'm just saying.

Don't be fooled, this is a major bait and switch sack of asscrack. All it really did was get Corey Hart's "Never Surrender" in my head every time I saw the title. Echavarria has only proven with this film that he should stick to playing dark, brooding heroes, and leave the directing and screenwriting to someone better qualified. He's certainly no Orson Welles. When a movie's cover has to show all the famous guys that have cameos, instead of the main star, you know you're in for some pain.

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