- Rated R
- Buy the Blu-ray
All photos © Universal Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
hen it comes to movies about underground fighting, there are only a handful of really good ones, and about half of those were made with Jean-Claude Van Damme in the lead role. The recent mainstream exposure of UFC has changed all that, however, with Hollywood now trying to capitalize on the mixed martial arts crowd by putting out a slew of films centered on the brutal sport. Last year’s “Never Back Down” was a flawed but entertaining reimagining of “The Karate Kid,” and David Mamet’s “Redbelt” delivered a more realistic take on the world of MMA, but if there was one film that looked to be the most promising of the bunch, it was Dito Montiel’s “Fighting.” After all, the title alone gave the impression that the movie would be a no-nonsense brawlfest, but despite a seemingly rock-solid concept, “Fighting” is a snoozefest.
Channing Tatum stars as Shawn MacArthur, a down-on-his-luck hustler selling bootleg “Harry Potter” books on the streets of New York. It isn’t long before some fellow crooks decide to try and rob him, but when Shawn proves himself capable of fighting them off, he’s approached by the group’s leader, Harvey Boardmen (Terrence Howard), with a lucrative opportunity. Hoping to take advantage of his clean-cut look and natural talent, Harvey takes Shawn under his wing and introduces him into the world of underground fighting. But when Harvey asks Shawn to throw the fight of his life in order to make some quick cash, the two butt heads over the future of their business arrangement.
For a movie about fighting, however, there’s actually very little of it here. Instead, the film focuses more on Shawn’s relationship with Harvey and the single mother waitress (Zulay Henao) he takes a liking to, while subplots involving Harvey’s former business partner (Luis Guzmán) and Shawn’s old college nemesis (Brian White) eat up precious time that would have been better spent on more action sequences. As it stands, there are only four fights in the entire film, and none of them are very good, which is a bit sad considering the movie is called “Fighting." “Never Back Down” may have had its share of problems, but at least when it came to the fighting, they delivered on their promise.
Dito Montiel can’t even get that part right, and to make matters worse, he’s enlisted the most frustrating pretty-boy actor since Josh Hartnett for the lead role. Channing Tatum may have the looks and charm of a Hollywood leading man, but his performances are wooden and he mumbles through his lines like a nervous child in a school play. Then again, even Terrence Howard is uncharacteristically bad, sleepwalking his way through each scene like he’s just chased a Valium with a bottle of Nyquil. It’s likely a result of the dialogue, which is an absolute mess, and Montiel (who also co-wrote the script) deserves all the blame. “Fighting” wasn't a very hard movie to screw up – all it needed was a couple of engaging characters and some really cool fight sequences – but he's turned what should have been a fun B-movie into one of the dullest films of the year.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
The single-disc release of "Fighting" is about as no-frills as you can get, with the only bonus material being some deleted scenes that fail to add anything of substance to the story. A director audio commentary would have been nice, or at the very least, a stunt featurette, but Universal clearly wants to put this dud as far behind them as possible.