The “Never Back Down” series has come a long way since its beginnings in 2008, and now it leaves the cage behind for a darker corner of the fighting world in “Never Back Down 4: Revolt”. While the smallest in scope of the series, “Revolt” makes up for this with strong directing from Kellie Madison, a marvelously sinister villain performance by UFC Hall of Famer, Michael Bisping, and an underground fight premise that gradually builds to the revolt promised in the title. “Never Back Down: Revolt” is out on Blu-ray, DVD, and streaming via Amazon, and all VOD, now!
Olivia Popica plays the protagonist Anya, with Tommy Bastow playing her brother Aslan. Brooke Johnston portrays the villainess Mariah, with Michael Bisping as her nefarious associate Janek, and James Faulkner playing fight promoter, Julian.
Anya’s fellow fighters include, Valentina, Lori, Mali, and Sasha, respectively played by Diana Hoyos, Hannah Al Rashid, Vanessa Campos, and Chloé Bruce.
MMA fighter Aslan finds himself in a tight spot after refusing to throw his last fight, which leaves him deeply indebted to underground promoter, Julian. Though his sister Anya is a newcomer to the MMA world, she impresses Julian’s fellow promoter Mariah and is offered a spot in an upcoming fight in Rome, with the promise of Julian’s debt getting paid off.
Despite some hesitancy from both Anya and Julian, she ultimately agrees to take the fight. However, after arriving on the fighting grounds, Anya learns the horrifying truth that she’s really been kidnapped along with several other young women to compete in illegal fights for the entertainment of Julian and Mariah’s wealthy clientele, who place bets on the fights.
Though many of the kidnapped fighter’s spirits are broken, Anya manages to persuade them to make a bid to escape.
As the fourth installment of the “Never Back Down” franchise, it’s evident from the relatively few and somewhat small locations that “Revolt” probably had the lowest budget of the series. Still, that ends up working somewhat in the film’s favor, with the claustrophobic, rundown hospital-turned-makeshift hotel feeling like a genuine human trafficking prison.
Michael Bisping Fits his Sociopathic Villain
The plot of “Revolt” reads like “Mad Max: Fury Road” with an MMA spin, and while Mariah is much more the Immortan Joe of the movie than her right-hand man Janek, Michael Bisping is obviously having a ball channeling the coldest, most sociopathic bas***d he can.
Tim Man Handles the Fight Choreography
“Revolt” is relatively conservative in when and where it breaks out its action scenes, with Tim Man handling the film’s fight choreography (along with some long-distance contributions from “The Raid 2‘s” Cecep Arif Rahman).
Blend of Grit, Grace & Raw Power
While some of the ring fights feel a little restrained due to some of the cast members being screen-fighting newbies, there’s a fitting blend of grace, grit, and raw power brought to the film’s MMA action.
Aslan’s cage fight in the opening minutes kicks off “Revolt” very well, and the great Chloe Grace brings the well-known electricity of her kicking skills to the underground arena. The titular revolt itself is where “Revolt” really kicks into MMA pandemonium, spilling from the showers of the locker room to the arena itself.
While feeling a little smaller in scale than its predecessors, “Never Back Down: Revolt” is a fun, 90-minutes of MMA action. Michael Bisping’s talent for fearsome villainy make him the kind of bad guy whose comeuppance is half the fun, and Kellie Madison takes the series from a competitive to a survival story.
Hopefully for all involved, “Never Back Down 5” won’t have a pandemic to work around, and as anyone who’s seen Kellie’s work on the short film “The Gate” will agree, Amy Johnston and Cecep Arif Rahman are among the obvious candidates to bring aboard!
- “They came to see a fight. Let’s give them a fight.” – Anya (Planning the revolt with her fellow fighters.)
- “No, you didn’t.” – Janek (When Anya says she didn’t get his name.)
- “Never Back Down: Revolt”, was filmed in London in late 2020.
- Director Kellie Madison had previously spoken to producers Craig Baumgarten and David Zelon about making a larger project out of her short film “The Gate”. Though this hasn’t been realized yet, Madison’s work on the short and prior contacts with Baumgarten and Zelon led to her being brought aboard to direct “Revolt”. (Check out “The Gate” below!)
- Cecep Arif Rahman wasn’t able to travel to the set of “Revolt” in the UK due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but was able to orchestrate pre-vis fight choreography for two of the fight sequences in the film. One of them was the fight between Chloe Bruce and Phoebe Robinson-Galvin.
- In addition to having to navigate the challenges of the pandemic, “Revolt” also faced daily time restrictions in the UK, and was only able to film for 10 hours a day instead of the usual 12-hour schedule.
- One COVID test also came back positive on the last day of filming, but fortunately, “Revolt” didn’t face a shutdown.
- Neetu Chandra holds a black belt in Taekwondo. This movie marks her Hollywood debut.