Universal // 2009 // 108 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 25th, 2009
Some dreams are worth the fight.
Channing Tatum (Step Up) stars in this boring, derivative action film that manages to be both boring and derivative.
Tatum is Shawn MacArthur, a loser who makes his living selling crappy stuff to idiots on the streets of New York City. One day, he gets into a fistfight with some hooligans, inadvertently grabbing the attention of a local hustler (Terrence Howard, Iron Man) who gets Shawn involved with...wait for it...an underground fighting circuit.
A shocking turn of events for sure. Here's what else is shocking: Shawn finds a girl he likes who plays hard to get, but eventually she warms up to him and they make out. There's also a big fight at the end with his arch-nemesis. Everyone wants him to throw the fight, but he believes in himself and won't lose on purpose no matter what, so screw you Lionheart!
Now here's a big fat waste of my time. You'd think there'd be something worthy of salvage from a movie called Fighting, but the title is pretty much it. I like that. It's simple, to the point, and ends in "-ing." Plus, you can use it in so many ways, like "I was fighting to keep my eyes open while watching this movie" or "This movie was fighting my brain and winning!" or "I'm typically not a violent person, but I wouldn't mind fighting the studio executive who greenlit this project."
Nothing worked for me, starting with the plot, one of the most glaring rehashes of the genre I've ever seen. Go ahead, pick a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie of your choice, take that script, superimpose it over the script for Fighting, and I daresay you'll see a snug alignment. Hapless loner, seedy underworld, shifty sidekick, big bad final fighter, trusting in oneself, all of that crap, photocopied and rammed into this film, ensuring that you'll be one step ahead of the narrative progression and bored from the get-go.
It doesn't help that Channing Tatum has the charisma of balsa wood. He dances around the edge of something interesting, when he shouts at Terrence Howard that he knows he's "not worth anything" and just doesn't want to lose the fight. But this mild flash of character can't overcome the deluge of flatlining mediocrity that surrounds it. Howard fares a little better, turning in a quirky performance, and not looking visibly bored. A major acting achievement.
Finally, the actual fighting. The storyline already fitted with a toe-tag and the performances hugely uneven, it now falls to the fisticuffs to drag this film from the trash heap. Not happening. While I like the raw, grittiness of the poundings, the sad fact is it's not entertaining to watch. Tatum has no discernible movie-making fight prowess. I'm not entirely sure what everyone saw in his character to think he was fit to dominate; his first bout ends with him pushing his opponent into a water fountain by sheer luck. Even if Fighting's brand of combat does it for you, there's not much to see. You get four total fights, two of which last maybe a minute or two, and the other two -- a showdown with a martial artist and the big finale smack-around -- are just barely cool. That's the sum total of the action, forcing you and me to suffer through excruciating filler.
I have a hunch Universal knew it was playing with radioactivity because the lackluster Blu-ray seems to support this thesis. The 1.85:1 1080p widescreen transfer is fine; a bit soft on the details, but enhanced enough to make the upgrade over standard DVD plenty noticeable. The colors are dark and grungy, reflective of the atmosphere of the film (and my mood while watching it), but the NYC establishing shots look great. Audio is clean and aggressive, the DTS-HD Master Audio pumping out the macho score and the punching sound effects with bravado. Not much for extras: a few minutes of forgettable deleted scenes.
A tedious, predictable movie that wants to be a gritty action flick -- and fails. Only committed Step Up fans need apply.
Guilty. Beat it.
Review content copyright © 2009 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (French)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Deleted Scenes
* D-Box Motion Enabled
* Digital Copy
* Theatrical and Unrated Versions