By: John M Jerva
It’s no secret that I’m a colossal fan of both Jesse V. Johnson and Dominiquie Vandenberg and have been ever since I first saw their early collaboration The Honorable. It was clear that even from that rough gem that these two action pros had that certain something and with a bigger budget, they could really do some damage on the screen for action fans everywhere.
Johnson parlayed his successful career as a stunt professional into a flourishing filmmaking career and has become one of the best action directors around. Vandenberg lived the action life for real having served in the French Foreign Legion and also a private contractor in some of the most dangerous places in the world. When it comes to action cinema, these two men talk the talk and walk the walk.
With that comes Pit Fighter, which marks another early film from the duo which saw a DVD release in 2005. In that film, Vandenberg played the role in which he excels at which is the once evil killer looking for redemption for his past sins. Vandenberg would revisit a character similar to that in this year’s The Mercenary but it is here some 15 years ago that they honed their craft and delivered a hands down lower budgeted action flick that was locked and loaded with sensational scenes of bare fisted fight action and extreme shoot outs that were off the rails but in a great way.
In Pit Fighter, Vandenberg plays Jack Severino, who is a man with no past and worse yet no memory. All Severino recalls are the lethal and extreme skills of pit fighting which he uses to make a living and help those less fortunate along with his comrade Manolo played by Steven Bauer.
Unfortunately, Severino’s past catches up with him like in all these action tales and he discovers that he was a less honorable man before his accident and he must now kill and kill first to achieve the redemption that he craves.
Pit Fighter features a heaping portion of brutal fight action courtesy of Stephen Quadros who served as the film’s second unit director. Quadros is no stranger to the martial arts or stunt work and here he employs all his vast knowledge and Vandenberg’s talents to deliver gripping and barbaric fight scenes that truly pull the audience in to this seedy world of thieves and killers where your next move could be your last.
Most of the film is packed with unarmed combat fight action but it is the finale that is pure and unadulterated action bliss where Severino takes on a horde of killers with his hands, feet, swords, knives and machine guns. You just know that the outcome won’t okay in Severino’s favor but you do know that he’s going down fighting and taking as many of them with him as he can.
The finale is so over the top and blistering that one will have to view it again to fully comprehend what they just saw. It’s totally bonkers in every way but it’s bonkers in the most awesome way at the same time.
A funny side note is that action star Scott Adkins, who wasn’t as known at the time, was cast in a small role that didn’t require any action at all. That would all be remedied of course when Johnson and Adkins would be reunited for Savage Dog which would be the first of their many collaborations that would definitely showcase the action phenom’s skills.
I actually interviewed Vandenberg earlier this year for The Mercenary but due to all the chaos that has materialized over the past few months, I have not yet posted our interview. I will be posting it soon as a special two part conversation and we talk about everything from his days in the French Foreign Legion, getting started in the industry and including this fine action film as well as his latest effort The Mercenary AKA Legion Max.
With all that, I give you some of the best fight action from Pit Fighter in the video below. If you haven’t seen it yet, by all means check it out as it is available on some streaming services and also on DVD. Enjoy and enjoy first rate action from two of the best in the business!!