This independent action film from director/co-writer Brent Barbie starts off promising, falls flat, and then very narrowly redeems itself in its climax.

Ryan McGowan (Vince Segovia) is a rookie police officer who also delves in mixed martial arts. However, he tends to let his emotions get to him. His best friend and fellow officer Tony Paterson (Michael Dean) plans to take down a crime syndicate who is responsible for running an illegal fight ring. However, when Tony goes undercover, he is killed in his first fight.

Ryan decides he must enter the fight ring. He learns from the mysterious driver (Katie Corpus) the rules of the competition. The challenger must win four fights to learn who the show runners are. During his impending time, he begins an infatuation with the driver and goes as far as attempting to help a teen hooker off the streets. Will Ryan let his emotions enhance or destroy his chance of nailing the syndicate once and for all?

Originally titled SANCTIONED TO DIE, this independent martial arts film delves into the illegal fight sub-genre. The film does start promising with a narrative voiceover from central character Ryan, who became a cop because he grew tired of the crime. Vince Segovia does well at channeling Ryan’s emotions, which sometimes spiral out of control. This becomes apparent when he and his partner respond to a domestic violence case.

The film begins to pick up when Ryan sets out to avenge his best friend’s death and enter the fight ring run by the local syndicate. However, while the film picks up, it ultimately falls flat. The first few fights are shot in either pitch black or with very little lighting, making it very difficult to see what is going on in the fights.

The use of very little lighting during the fight sequences becomes more of a burden than a blessing for the fight choreographer, in this case, Rudy Hernandez. The training sequence between Ryan and Tony in the first act has great lighting and enables to see the two spar in mixed martial arts style action. However, when it comes to Ryan fighting his first few battles, it is not very noticeable. Only the final battle, pitting Ryan against three opponents at once, brings little redemption in the overall film.

In the end, BLOOD GAMES could have done so much better. However, with the use of improper lighting in some of the fights, it just derails the credit of the fighters and choreographer. Yet, the story is pretty decent and in the indie circuit, it may be worth a rental.