Review: Never Back Down

Troubled Iowa teen Sean Faris moves with his family (including mum Leslie Hope and his impressionable little brother) to Orlando, where his internet video-documented brawling past (someone insulted his father, said person got their arse handed to them) gets the attention of a group of local MMA-fighting high school students. Attending a party he’s been invited to by pretty Amber Heard, Faris is challenged to a fight by glowering bully-boy Cam Gigandet (who played the glowering bully-boy on “The O.C.” and the glowering bully-vampire in “Twilight”) and is quickly and violently dispatched with (caught on every partygoer’s mobile phone camera, of course!). I guess poor Faris just didn’t have the ‘eye of the tiger’, yet. Bruised and battered- and angry, he and his new buddy Evan Peters, a keen MMA student, learn from master MMA instructor Djimon Hounsou (an honest to God two-time Oscar nominee ‘Cuba Gooding’ his promising career away), in order to get some payback against Gigandet in a hush-hush, underground MMA tournament. Not that he tells Hounsou that’s what he’s leaning MMA for. Hounsou has a ‘no outside fights’ rule- yeah, that’ll stick!. Meanwhile, Faris continues to pursue Heard, even though she tricked him, and even though Gigandet is her boyfriend.

Mediocre, grossly overlong 2008 Jeff Wadlow (the tepid horror flick “Cry Wolf”) flick is “The Karate Kid” for the MMA and YouTube generation. As such, the formula still works to an extent (despite the rather dangerous message being sent, mind you that’s something “The Karate Kid” probably does too), the film is pretty watchable at first I guess. Hounsou is excellent as the film’s Mr. Miyagi, easily the most interesting character in the film and he brings much presence and gravitas to the role. However, it’s rather bland, as are the performances by Faris and Cam ‘Check out my abs and my one facial expression’ Gigandet. It’s also rather unbelievable. I bought the notion of students filming the fights, because we all know it happens, but there’s no way it’d be this organised, and I doubt if real kids would bother with all the MMA fighting gear etc. I also thought Faris’ long-suffering, sensible mother Hope got pretty rough treatment here. With a paint-by-numbers screenplay by Chris Hauty, you might as well just watch “The Karate Kid”, it still holds up really well, if you ask me.

Rating: C


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