As Good As Dead (2022) – Action Special

Image credits (©) Samuel Goldwyn Films

Michael Jai White is back in action with quite a change-up in his usual approach to on-screen combat in the new action movie, “As Good As Dead”.

Directed by R. Ellis Frazier with Michael Jai White penning the script, “As Good As Dead” sets its story in the heart of Nogales, with Michael Jai White bringing a new fighting style to the movie that one hopes snowballs into great action movie prominence after Mike shows its capabilities.


In Nogales, Mexico, a young man named Oscar (Luca Oriel) watches from afar as a solitary man named Bryant Powell (Michael Jai White) trains in martial arts.

One day, Bryant surprises Oscar by taking him under his wing, but still insists that Oscar not use the fighting techniques he’s learned in local MMA competitions that have caught his eye.

After Oscar does so anyway, both he and Bryant find themselves under attack by some heavily-armed cartel enforcers. With Bryant, Oscar, and several others under assault, Bryant is forced to come clean that he is a former DEA agent, with Oscar’s victory in the tournament alerting some old enemies of Bryant’s to his location in Nogales.

“As Good As Dead” is a Layered Story

“As Good As Dead” (which carried the working title of “Nogales”) blends a master-student story with an action-packed crime war, and bring the two together fairly well.

Oscar comes under Bryant’s tutelage in much the way you would expect for a man of the latter’s law enforcement background, but their introduction still works in a few surprises.

Bryant literally appears out of nowhere behind Oscar, wordlessly inviting him to study with him as a man of few words, and putting his young student through some low key-yet effective training methods.

Once the battle with the cartels and duplicitous agents of the law gets under way, Oscar’s training with Bryant does admittedly feel a bit truncated with the depth of combat wisdom Bryant has to offer.

However, “As Good As Dead” still keeps you on your toes with a strong command of its stakes once the villains enter the picture. Even better is the change-up in the action that Michael Jai White and the cast unleash.

Michael Jai White Shows a New Fighting Style

Michael Jai White’s vast knowledge of martial arts has seen him deploy many different techniques in his career in action movies, but he tries something completely new with the Defence Labs Method in “As Good As Dead”.

With his elbows adopting a unique, defensive position, Bryant’s fight scenes are forensic-levels of sharp and crisp. However, he doesn’t strictly fight unarmed either, with one of the movie’s best fights showing Bryant disarming a pair of machetes from some pursuing opponents and surgically slashing through them.

Luca Oriel also does a fine job with his fight scenes, which are numerous as you might expect with Oscar being the student of Bryant.

Such a close-quarters fighting style is also right at home with the gunplay at work in “As Good As Dead”, the movie’s fight scenes appropriately unfolding in the midst of ballistic wars unleashed by Bryant’s cartel enemies.

The Defence Lab Method hasn’t gotten much of a chance to shine in action movies before, and with its relatively small scale but engaging story, “As Good As Dead” gives the art a fittingly enjoyable showcase through its fight scenes with Michael Jai White, Luca Oriel, and Michael Copon.

Some Geeky Humor for Martial Arts Fans

The gritty tone of “As Good As Dead” is balanced-out with the movie’s share of humor, but martial arts fans get quite a serving of in-jokes in one scene in particular with Bryant and Oscar’s brother Hector (Guillermo Iván).

With Bryant’s past involving an undercover operation in prison, Hector likens it to different action movie plots, from “In Hell”, “Kickboxer: Retaliation”, “Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight”, and “Death Warrant”.

Bryant, however, prefers to liken his professional background to “The Raid: Redemption”, and despite being a seemingly-throwaway scene, it’s a delightfully self-aware moment on the part of “As Good As Dead”, and a scenario of geeky back-and-forth banter that all action fans will surely relate to!

“As Good As Dead” is Low-Budget Fun!

“As Good As Dead” is a fairly small-scale action movie, but one with a thrillingly unique spin with its fight scenes and a strong script by Michael Jai White.

In the DTV action-era, “As Good As Dead” is 90- minutes of butt-kicking, explosive fun, and compellingly poses the question of why the Defence Lab Method is such an overlooked cinematic martial art. After “As Good As Dead”, one can only hope it elbow strikes its way into the martial arts-movie mainstream!

As Good As Dead is now in theaters and on VOD platforms

As Good As Dead is now in theaters and on VOD platforms!

“As Good As Dead” is out on VOD platforms!

Have you seen “As Good As Dead”? What are some of your favorite Michael Jai White action movies? Let us know in the comments below, join in the conversation / share this on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter & Instagram!


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Brad Curran

From the earliest days of childhood, Brad Curran was utterly fascinated by martial arts, his passion only growing stronger after spending time living in the melting pot of Asian cultures that is Hawaii. His early exposure developed into a lifelong passion and fascination with all forms of martial arts and tremendous passion for action and martial arts films. He would go on to take a number of different martial arts forms, including Shaolin Ch'uan fa, Taekwondo, Shotokan Karate and remains a devoted student, avid and eager to continue his martial arts studies. Brad is also an aspiring writer and deeply desires to share his love for martial arts and martial arts movies with the world!

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