Tyrese Gibson teams up with director Dallas Jackson to chase his action star movie dreams in The System from The Avenue. Terry Savage (Gibson) is a young soldier who recently returned from war and has just finished his enlistment.
Terry decides to rob a trap house to provide for his sick daughter and gets caught up in a drug bust. So he can avoid jail time, the authorities make a deal with Terry to go undercover in a notoriously dangerous prison to investigate what is really going on behind the scenes.
Terry quickly discovers an underground prisoner fighting ring where Freeway (Marrese Crump) is the top dog. Before long, Warden Lucas (Jeremy Piven) forces Terry to compete. Under the guidance of his cellmate Bones (Terrence Howard), Terry becomes a formidable competitor. Fighting to stay alive and win his freedom, Terry must also take down the warden’s corrupt system.
Growing up in the nineties, I spent many a Friday night watching low-budget martial arts films with underground fighting as the hook. I never took the film series as it was primarily about the ass-kicking. The System is Dallas Jackson’s 2020 ill-received Welcome to Sudden Death. I admit I didn’t see the harm in Welcome to Sudden Death as I didn’t take the film seriously. In my review, I even commended the director for his action sequence eye. Unfortunately the glimmer of a promise he showed in his previous film isn’t on display here.
Since his debut in Baby Boy in 2001, R&B singer Tyrese Gibson has amassed a respectable acting resume. Granted, I’ve never taken Tyrese as a serious thespian. However, he does have a screen presence and is fun to watch. Here though, Tyrese is going through the motions. He does have some decent fight scenes. But the moments that require some emotional range quickly falter.
Terrence Howard does fine in the mentor role, but his performance reeks of I’m only here for a paycheck. In contrast, Jeremy Piven hams it up as a villain who comes off as more of a joke than menacing. Finally, we have mumble rapper Lil Yachty as Joker, the MC for the fights. The less said about his performance, the better.
The lone bright spot in the movie is Marrese Crump, who makes for a fantastic physical antagonist. Crump excels in his fight scenes and delivers the right amount of alpha male gusto in his lines. I understand the vibe that director Dallas Jackson was going through, but a weak performance from Gibson doesn’t allow the film to cross the finish line.
Had the film placed Gibson in the role of Joker and Crump in the lead role, the result would be better. In addition, I would’ve added in black action heroes such as Michael Jai White, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, or even Tyron Woodley in some capacity. All three men have displayed commendable fight skills on screen in the past. Having one of the three face off against Crump would have added excitement to the film.
I’ve never had an issue with a low-budget action film. However, when the lead actor is weak, it makes the film not worth recommending.
Final Grade: D+
The System is available to stream on numerous platforms. In addition, the film is available to rent at your local Redbox.
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