Never Back Down (2008)

Posted in Reviews by - December 01, 2012
Never Back Down (2008)

Concussed teen movie attempting to do for mixed martial arts what Grease did for leather jackets and Brylcreem. This is essentially The Karate Kid for The O.C. generation, exonerating the archetypal jock persona by adding metrosexual tendencies and substituting the football field for the sweat and grapple of the MMA stage. Jake Tyler (Faris) is an ex-collegiate football star who moves from Iowa with his widowed mother and kid brother to the sun-kissed playboy mansions of Florida. Jake is no ordinary high-school beefcake, though. He reads from The Iliad, befriends an Xbox nerd and charms the school babe, all on his first day. Of course, she’s dating the school douchebag, Ryan McCarthy (Gigandet, who was actually in The O.C.). Ryan organises bare-knuckle-brawls at the sort of house parties you find in punk rock music videos, offering newbie Jake the welcoming gift of a socially humiliating UFC-style ass-whopping. Angry Jake quickly enrols at the local MMA school where he befriends Brazilian jiu-jitsu sage, Jean Roqua (Hounsou), discovering a kindred spirit battling with his own similar demons. Following some training montages and even more emo music, Jake is finally ready to confront Ryan at ‘the Beatdown’ – a no-holds-barred underground fight tournament, the ultimate aim of which appears to be the opportunity to be a YouTube star. The film follows a particularly well-worn and wearily familiar path, glamourising its subject matter with brainwashing accuracy and dangerously glossing over the inherent risks associated with the sport. The annoying characters don’t help, either; apart from Hounsou’s Miyagi-like turn, which is the best thing about the movie: convincing, sensitive, highly skilled and played excellently by the Blood Diamond star.

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Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a keyboard in London, UK.

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