While I haven’t seen all of his on-screen work, I definitely admire the time that Anthony “Treach” Criss has put in to his acting career since the 1990s. The first time I saw him in a film, however, was 2002’s Love And A Bullet, directed by Ben Ramsey and Kantz (the latter who sadly passed away last April). I was maybe 19 at the time and had a certain taste in direct-to-video films, and while this film wasn’t perfect, it was an okay watch for what it was.
I wasn’t really aware of Criss’s acting stride at the time apart from this film, either. Indeed, his IMDb page did lend more than what was made available to me at the video store (you know, back when those still existed). Fast forward to 2022 though, and color me surprised when a recent report at Deadline unveils Jared Cohn’s new Tubi Original Release, Lord Of The Streets, with Criss leading another action role. On Friday, it peaked my interest, to say the least.
The film firstly introduces Damon Stone (UFC light heavyweight division fighter, Khalil Rountree Jr.), who now finds himself in the midst of a 25-year prison stretch after killing an assailant who violently broke into his home, and is denied parole years later after an altercation in the yard. We then meet Jayson (Anthony Criss), an estranged father seperated from his family while struggling with the trauma of killing an opponent years earlier as a pro-fighter, on top of alcoholism, gambling and a racking debt under the greedy eye of gun-toting mobster, Kane (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson). For Jayson to answer for his debt, Kane settles to have him wage his own champion fighter, but with a catch, in a deal that goes very much sideways, resulting in the kidnap and ransom of Jayson’s daughter.
Forced to look at another ringside alternative, Jayson turns to Damon after seeing his fighting prowess in the penitentiary with his own eyes upon a recent recreational visit for the inmates. With Kane controlling all the cards the table, he allows Jayson to vie for Damon’s freedom. The catch? Damon must win five fights in one night with Kane’s own fighters if Jayson is to rescue his daughter from Kane’s evil clutches.
Cohn’s direction brings a steady and tolerable pace to Lord Of The Streets, but its weak script is what causes it at times to lose its footing. One of my biggest pet peeves is when previously-established points need to be reiterated over and over again, allowing for little to know conversational depth in the dialogue as the story progress, which makes a bit of what we’re watching feel like filler instead of the kind of action cinema that stays perpetual and kinetic at all times.
The performances are mostly average but stable enough if you have an eye nuanced enough for independent cinema to know that some of these films don’t necessarily have to be drama masterpieces in order to be watchable. Fight sequences are simplistic and brutal enough to suffice the kind of R-rated violence that action fans largely enjoy, with additional moments of key characters being brutally killed in cold blood. Oddly enough, Anderson Silva (Invincible Dragon) has an antagonistic role in this one, and while it serves its purpose, some might view it as a wasted opportunity considering he doesn’t get in much screenfighting time.
Lord Of The Streets offers a little bit of many things to its narrative. Intrigue, family drama and action are all in the mix, and as a result, it probably fits right up there with so many of those hit-or-miss direct-to-home release MMA films that arose since the early 2000s. Select a rainy a day to hit up Tubi and click ‘Play’ if you’re interested.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.