09th Sep2014

‘Tapped Out’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Michael Biehn, Cody Hackman, Krzysztof Soszynski, Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, Jess Brown, Daniel Faraldo, Nick Bateman, Tom Bolton | Written by Allan Ungar, Jerry Buteyn, Cody Hackman | Directed by Allan Ungar


The more things change, the more they stay the same… A mantra that couldn’t be more apt for a fight flick like Tapped Out.

As a child of the 80s I grew up on the likes of The Karate Kid and its sequels. As a film fan in the 90s I watched movies such as Showdown, Kickboxer, Bloodsport and A Dangerous Place. How are these film connected? And what do they all have in common with Tapped Out? Well essentially they all feature the same underdog story. An underdog story which has has existed, and has been re-used time and time again, in the martial arts genre for decades – taking in karate, taekwondo, kickboxing and now mixed martial arts (MMA).

Yes, the story of student and master coming together to overcome an adversary is, by now, one of the major cliches of the action genre (hence “The more things change, the more they stay the same”). Of course each new film gives the of-told tale it’s own, not always unique, spin but the crux of the story always stays the same.

This time round it’s the story of one time martial arts prodigy Michael Shaw, who is sentenced to community service at a run-down karate school run by Reggie (Biehn), a former friend of Michael’s now-deceased father. Attending an underground MMA fight with Reggie’s niece, Michael encounters the man who killed his family seven years ago in a botched carjacking. Seeking revenge, he goes behind his karate masters back to train in order to compete in the upcoming MMA tournament. However he can’t keep his training secret for long as Reggie, knowing Michael faces an uphill battle, takes it upon himself to teach him – if not to win the tournament, to survive.

The brain child of star Cody Hackman and director Allan Ungar, Tapped Out is notable for its stellar cast of UFC talent, including Anderson Silva (former UFC Middleweight champion), Lyoto Machida (former UFC Light Heavyweight champion) and, as the films villain Dominic Gray, Krzysztof Soszynski (former TKO Heavyweight champion). The trio bring a wealth of experience in MMA fighting to the film, with Soszynski in particular perfectly cast as the unstoppable, unrestrained fighter who rules the underground cage fights. And despite not being known for his martial arts prowess, Michael Biehn actually make for a believable, and very likeable, mentor to the films hero, Michael. Oh and did I mention the cameo from John Kreese himself, aka actor Martin Kove? A fantastic knowing nod to Tapped Out‘s filmic heritage.

Being a co-writer and the star of the film, Cody Hackman could have easily taken the “vanity project” route and made his character the centre of this films universe but he doesn’t. Instead Hackman, Ungar and co-writer Jerry Buteyn craft a film whose characters exist because of the story, not the other way round; and it’s the story that hooks the audience in way before Ungar and co. unleash the martial arts mayhem.

There is something very Batman-esque about Hackman’s character – a teenager held back in school because of the almost-debilitating effect seeing his parents killed had on him, who eventually goes on a “crusade” to get revenge against their killer – only this time our hero has no gadgets, no costume, no gravely voice, just a friend who helps him in his time of need. It’s a credit to Hackman that his character (and his journey) is so emotionally wrought and ultimately very believable – he brings a great inner sadness to the character of Michael, a sadness that eventually becomes his motivation, allowing the audience to both empathise with his situation and, come the big finale, root for him to win!

Of course no underdog action film can go without a training montage, however here the montage  – teaching the kids karate, learning to punch the makiwara with his master Reggie, and the cool sequence in which Michael learns grappling and strike techniques from Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida – is merely a pre-cursor to the bevy of vicious arm bars, kicks, punches and grapples that make up the many cage fights of Tapped Out‘s MMA tournament. And that finale, the big payoff as it were, that sees Michael enter the big tournament and finally face Grey? Well that’s well worth the wait.

A fantastic MMA take on a classic martial arts movie story, Tapped Out is available on iTunes and VOD services now, courtesy of Solo Media.

***** 5/5


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