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Prepare to Die (2023) Review

Prepare to Die, the new Tubi original from director Jose Montesinos (From the Depths, Five Star Murder) and co-writer Jacob David Smith (How to Fold a Fitted Bottom Sheet, Death App) begins like many classic martial arts films such as The 18 Bronzemen, as a child watches his family killed in front of them.

In this case it’s young Diego Padilla (Ryan Padilla, Fast Vengeance, The Little Death) who sees Blaine Richtefield (Lorenzo Lamas, Falcon Crest, Atomic Eden) kill his father and is forced to hear what Richtefield’s goons did to his mother. He tells his driver Silas (Zhan Wang, Swim, Trenchez) to kill the boy but instead has him smuggled into China.

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There he lives and trains in martial arts with Silas’ brother Bingwen (Craig Ng, The Perfect Weapon, Shadow Master) and his daughter Xin Yi (Alyssa Leanne So, The Horror of Wearing Shoes Inside, Gummy Worm). He wants to return to Texas and avenge his parents, but Bingwen forbids it. However, when he learns that Silas is in danger, has no choice but to return and announce, “I am Diego Padilla. You killed my parents, prepare to die!” OK, he doesn’t actually say that, but given the film’s title and plot, he really should have.

Spared death and sent into exile as it were, Diego has become a skilled fighter who must now return home to seek vengeance. But he can’t do it alone and, in a sequence of extremely convenient encounters, meets and recruits William Freeman (Rylan Williams, The People I’ve Slept With, Ninja Cheerleaders), Blanca (Paula Rae-Taylor) and James Swiftwater (Andrew Pinon, 2012: Ice Age, Avengers Grimm). All three have had dealing with Richtefield, and they all hate him. At first reluctant, Silas joins when he discovers his missing daughter may be alive, and captive in one of Richtefield’s brothels.

Due to Prepare to Die being an Asylum film, all we see are Diego’s interactions with the other leads, which makes it look they were also the only people he met, something almost as unlikely as the way characters are able to sneak in and out of China. I know I frequently complain about films padding their running time, but this is just the opposite, it’s pared down so much that the lack of interactions seems odd.

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There are pacing issues because, like many Asylum films, the bulk of the action is reserved for Prepare to Die’s final act, in this case the storming of Richtefield’s compound. We do get plenty of flying fists, bullets and knives as they attempt to rescue the captive girls and bring Richtefield down. It’s all fairly basic Action Scene 101 stuff, but I don’t think anyone watches Tubi Originals expecting John Woo or Jesse V. Johnson level throwdowns.

The fight choreography by Dominic Fernandes and Shane MacNab, neither of whom seem to have any other credits, isn’t great but is better than what you get in a lot of low budget films action films. Effects are limited too few fairly clean bullet hits and a slit throat. Padilla looks good throwing kicks and, in her first film, Paula Rae-Taylor does well as a woman with an appreciation for throwing knives. Lamas was enjoyably sleazy as the villain, and still looks when he squares off against the heroes in the final fight.

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I had high hopes for Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson (Lord of the Streets, Mojave Diamonds) as Ryan, Richtefield’s main enforcer, and the only one who gets so much as a name. Sadly, he doesn’t get much screen time or many chances to fight. Speaking of limited screen time, Michael Madsen (Waking Karma, Every Last One of Them) appears as a corrupt sheriff who seems to be there solely for a star cameo, contributing absolutely nothing to the film’s plot except some mumbled dialogue that almost sounds improvised.

In the end, Prepare to Die is still better than a lot of Tubi’s original films, and manages to deliver more action than many films with bigger budgets, last night’s review Wanted Man being a perfect example. For what it cost to make, and for what it costs to watch, Prepare to Die is an acceptable night’s entertainment.

Prepare to Die is available to stream on Tubi.

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