Starring: Channing Tatum, Terrence Howard, Zulay Henao
Directed by: Dito Montiel (“A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints”)
Written by: Robert Munic (TV’s “The Cleaner”) and Dito Montiel (“A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints”)
With the sport of Mixed Martial Arts rising in popularity after every pay-per-view event each moth, it’s evident that film studios want to try to bank on the industry while its fan base is bloodthirsty for extra ground-and-pound moments.
While “Fighting,” is less about sanctioned matches than last year’s mainstream dud “Never Back Down,” it still follows the same blueprint. In that movie, Oscar-nominee Djimon Hounsou (“Blood Diamond”) played a mentor who takes a young, hungry, and easy-on-the-eyes fighter under his wing so he can win the respect of his classmates.
In “Fighting,” Hounsou is replaced with another Oscar nominee, Terrence Howard (“Hustle & Flow”), who plays Harvey Boarden, an overly cordial fight agent on the lookout for “hidden talent.” Here, Channing Tatum (“Stop-Loss”) plays the pretty-faced fighter, Shawn MacArthur, who has nothing to lose when he’s caught up in the world of underground brawls. When Harvey offers him five grand for his first fight, Shawn is all in without much question. What should be in question, however, is what Harvey actually sees in Shawn. That tidbit of information is for screenwriters to explain in the DVD commentary since they don’t do it in the movie.
What’s more bothersome about the script is that Shawn doesn’t really seem passionate about fighting. While the tagline of the movie is “Some Dreams are Worth Fighting for,” it’s unclear what that dream is. Most fighting movies pick something like respect, love, family, or survival. “Fighting” screenwriters choose money, which is a mediocre reason to get your protagonist bloody and bruised.
Nevertheless, Shawn fights; Shawn wins; Shawn falls for a nice waitress girl (Zulay Henao) who apparently likes bad boys. It all leads up to a final fight with a former high school wrestling teammate who has a personal feud against him. It’s a plot point that isn’t examined for more than a few scenes and therefore doesn’t make much sense on paper.
But who’s worried about the storyline when there are enough high-energy fight scenes to fill an entire fight card? Actually, let’s retract that statement and simply do a quick play-by-play of Shawn’s first fight in the movie. 1) Shawn is repeatedly knocked to the floor by a stronger fighter. 2) Shawn wins the fight when his opponent hits his head on a porcelain water fountain. 3) Shawn is praised by his entourage for his victory and later becomes “the biggest draw in town.”
Not much works for “Fighting” although its B-movie impression at the beginning is fairly promising. But with a script that goes cold quickly and some pitiful plot twists and dialogue, there isn’t much reason to cheer and no one to root for in this minor addition and major letdown to the genre.