Sometimes, you just need a little help. That saying certainly holds true for Hector Chavez, the proud but beleaguered mixed martial arts fighter facing a hugely stacked deck in the action melodrama “Chavez: Cage of Glory.” More important, it also applies to Hector Echavarria, the film’s writer, director and star (he was also an executive producer), who could have used a serious assist with each of his creative roles before striking up his one-man band and going all “Rocky.”
Echavarria, a martial arts champion in his native Argentina, takes an über-earnest approach here. But good intentions go just so far when a movie is hobbled by such risible, place holder dialogue, contrived plot points, wildly uneven performances and awkward camera work. Worse, the filmmaker has performed multi-hyphenate duties on a recent string of direct-to-DVD action movies, so “Chavez’s” issues can’t be blamed on inexperience (the wrong kind of experience, maybe).
This new picture finds the Mexican American Chavez (Echavarria) and wife Gia (Sadie Katz) in desperate financial straits as their small son (Liam Finegan-Smith) awaits critical heart surgery. So Chavez, to afford said operation, riskily agrees to battle a vicious MMA champ (Heath Herring) in return for a big payday. Loan sharks, a vile gang leader (Danny Trejo), a greedy promoter (Patrick Kilpatrick) and a kindly priest-brother (Steven Bauer) all factor in to the predictable, often mawkish story. At least the cage fighting scenes feel authentic.
“Chavez: Cage of Glory”
MPAA rating: R for violence, language and some sexual content
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Playing: In general release