Fighting isn’t quite as generic as its title suggests, but it’s pretty close. Director Dito Montiel follows up his flawed, but captivating A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (my review here) with this mainstream underdog action film, and doesn’t do anything to upend the genre. Where Saints was experimental, insightful and brutal, Fighting is blasé, predictable and watered-down.
Channing Tatum (who showed us what he was really capable of with his intense turn in Saints) re-teams with Montiel to star as Shawn McArthur, a Southern boy who moved to New York City, and is having a tough time making ends meet. He’s selling bootlegs on the street one day when he gets mugged, leading to an encounter with hustler Harvey Boarden (Terrence Howard).
Boarden tells him he can get him $5,000 for participating in underground street fighting, and McArthur cautiously accepts, leading him down a very obvious path where he’ll struggle with having to throw fights and try to win the affections of beautiful Zulay (Zulay Henao).
Along with its pre-packaged “underdog makes good” storyline, Fighting gets tripped up by its occasionally terminally slow pacing and a mumbling, lisping performance from Howard that comes off as lazy characterization. Tatum is good, and he has potential to be a big star, but his character lets him down. He has a secret in his past, but it turns out to be pretty minor, and there’s hardly any intensity or anger boiling beneath the surface. He’s just fighting to make ends meet, leaving us with a too tame character.
Montiel’s direction helps raise the picture above its ordinariness, and like in Saints, he shows he’s got an eye for how to shoot New York, albeit a different borough this time than last. Fighting ends up being marginally better than its advertising suggests, but compared to what we’ve already seen from Montiel, this is clearly a step in the wrong direction.
The Blu-ray Disc
Fighting is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. For the most part, it’s a crisp and clean visual presentation, with cityscapes and establishing shots really standing out for their clarity. The slightly muted color palette keeps any one color from really standing out. The picture occasionally looks a little soft, mostly in the quick editing of the fight sequences, but it’s overall a satisfactory Blu-ray presentation.
The audio is presented in Dolby DTS-HD, and it’s a nice mix with plenty of ambient city noise and a thumping soundtrack that makes itself heard and felt. The dialogue sometimes seems a tad quiet, but it’s more likely due to the frequent mumbling in the film than the audio quality.
It seems no one involved with the project thought too much of it, as it is unceremoniously dumped onto Blu-ray with only eight minutes of deleted scenes, presented in HD. A second disc contains a digital copy.
The Blu-ray comes equipped both with the theatrical and an unrated cut, but the unrated version only tacks on three minutes to the original PG-13 release.
The Bottom Line
Low enough expectations will help make Fighting go down pretty easily, but I hope to see much more adventurous fare from Montiel and Tatum in the future.