Fighting is one of those movies that looks, smells and tastes B-grade, but is backed by an A-grade cast (Channing Tatum and Terrence Howard as opposed to an unknown white actor + Brian Dennehy) and a better-than-expected screenplay and director (Dito Montiel). But for these factors, it probably should have gone straight to DVD. Instead, what we ended up with is a slightly above average, albeit forgettable film.
Fighting is a film about…er…fighting. Underground, bare-knuckle street fighting, to be precise.
Tatum plays Shawn MacArthur, a nice young man trying to make ends meet on the streets of New York, and Howard plays Harvey Boarden, the man who ‘discovers’ him and kind of takes him under his wing. Throw in a few fist fights, a love interest (Zulay Henao), an arch nemesis (Brian White) and an unfolding back story, and that’s Fighting in a nutshell.
Right from the opening sequence, from the music to the gritty feel to Tatum’s outfit, you get the suspicion that Fighting is trying to channel Rocky. You know, the underdog from the wrong side of the tracks who tries and manages to become something after being given an opportunity.
Tatum even gives a bit of a Stallone impersonation. He’s got that good guy routine going, and he’s also got that underdog pride; even their persistence in picking up girls is similar. The only thing missing is a crooked mouth and a speech impediment.
The fight scenes in Fighting are solid. Naturally, they are a little over-the-top, but for the most part they maintain a slight resemblance to realism (apart from the fact that getting belted in the face hardly leaves more than a light bruise). Thankfully, each fight is given proper screen time – there’s no hastily prepared montage with rapidly accumulating victories.
My problem with it all is that the whole process from Tatum’s character being ‘discovered’ to him being in and winning fights is pretty dubious. Seriously, the guy punched out a few stiffs on the street, and the next thing you know he’s been thrown into bare-knuckle fights with a massive underground audience? And really, it’s not like he is a freakish talent or has abnormal kung fu abilities. He’s just a skinny street punk who knows how to throw a punch or two – would he even have a sliver of a chance against the type of tough guys he was going up against? I highly doubt it. (One of the dudes was Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Cung Le!)
Maybe that was the whole point. He wasn’t supposed to stand a chance, but somehow he manages to prevail.
Nevertheless, if Fighting was all about fighting, it would have been okay. Unfortunately, they just had to insert the love interest in there. Nothing wrong with a bit of loving, but it took up such a large chunk of the 105-minute running time. And most of all, it was quite lame.
2.5 stars out of 5!
[Note: for about 2 months before watching this movie, I mistakenly thought ‘Fighting’ was ‘Never Back Down‘. Gotta see that one too.]