Michael Jai White directed Never Back Down 2. Wait, what?

Anyone who’s seen Black Dynamite knows that Michael Jai White has the potential to be the next great action star.  I’m still hoping it’ll happen, but in the meantime, the road from Tyler Perry bit player to A-List stardom apparently leads through the sequel to a movie about high school MMA fightin’.  Never Back Down was 21 Jump Street meets MMA, with Cam Gigandet playing the dog-faced gremlin role first popularized by Richard Grieco.  It also starred Sean Faris as Jake Tyler, “a tough kid who leads with his fists, and often, his heart,” which frankly, seemed difficult from a biological/logistical standpoint.

Clearly, this concept of The OC with rear naked chokes needed a sequel, and who better to direct it than Michael Jai White, making his debut?  Never Back Down 2 (NOW WITH EVEN LESS BACKING DOWN!) moves the fighters from high school to college, losing Sean Faris in the process (who, as we all know, only recommends “the college of life”).  A rough cut of Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown, played ActionFest over the weekend, and here’s what people had to say:

Cast predominantly with MMA fighters, Never Back Down II, has a story involving four guys from different background brought together under the tutelage of a retired (but still in his prime) sensei Case to battle for $10K and glory in an underground college MMA tourney, The Beatdown, ran by a hyper Zuckerberg-esque college kid. It is a tale of male-bonding and school-yard posturing and cheap, meaningless over-stylized sex that pops up on occasion. [sounds like my Friday nights]

There is hot-headed wrestler Mike who is dealing with his dad leaving him and his mother for another man.  As if there isn’t enough homoeroticism of sweaty men showering together and grabbling on vinyl or rubber. [Twitch]

Well sure, I always do my grabbling on rubber. That’s the only safe way to do it.  What’s grabbling, you ask?  Why it’s like grappling, but grabbier.

As soon as Case [Jai White] starts training the boys, White’s attitude beats down any of the weaknesses of the script or acting.
White finally gets to put on a show when Case takes on a gang of corrupt cops. Handcuffed, he moves and flows with impressive brutality.
Never Back Down 2 delivers its promise of a beat down. The fighting is way more intense and just more entertaining than the original.  [ScreenJunkies]

Well that’s good to hear.  If it didn’t live up to the realism of the original, I don’t know what I’d do.  I’m still holding out hope that Michael Jai White will start getting better roles. In the meantime, this has been another exciting installment of “Hey, what’s goin’ on with Michael Jai White?”