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Movie Review: Fighting

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When I walk into a movie called "Fighting," I expect, well, fighting. It has to do with truth in advertising. When you buy a Coke, you don't want to crack it open and taste ginger ale, nor do you go to a Pixar film and expect to see a horror movie. When I go to a movie centering on a fighter, I want fights. I want to see a flurry of flying fists, I want to see someone beaten to a pulp, I didn't get that here. Yes, there are a couple of fights, but nothing terribly impressive, and they're mostly cut to cover up lack of fighting skills (ironic, no?) on the actors' parts. While it was a step up from the similar Never Back Down, that does not really say all that much.

fighting6At the center of Fighting is Shawn (Channing Tatum), an Alabama boy living in New York City, struggling to make ends meet selling shoddy knockoff books and DVDs. One day, a couple of thugs rob him on the street, forcing him to show off his, ummm, fighting skills. Watching safely from a distance is Harvey (Terrence Howard), a soft spoken hustler from Chicago. He sees some skills on display when Shawn's fists are connecting with other people's faces. He approaches the young man with a proposition: "would you like to fight if it will make you a lot of money?" Or something along those lines. In any the case, the answer turned out to be, of course, "Yes," and so begins a beautiful friendship.

Everybody seems to know who Harvey is, despite his seemingly passive approach to being an underground fight promoter. He easily gets fights set up for Shawn, even though Shawn is a new face on the scene. These fights bring Shawn into contact with a whole new group of people, not to mention the opportunity to hang out in an exclusive night club populated with the folks who promote and bet on the fights . It is here that the romantic subplot is introduced.

fighting4One night at the club, Shawn meets Zulay (Zulay Henao), a waitress working the floor. He approaches her like a good Southern boy, real polite like. This relationship develops slowly and is one of the better aspects of the film. There is a note of reality threaded into their initial meetings, including a discussion of fate and the need to take it into your own hands. This part of the story also allows for some fun with Zulay's overprotective grandmother, a role that seems over the top, but could probably have been ripped right from someone's own experiences.

All right, back to the action. Said "action" follows all the standard tropes for this sort of movie – they play off the idea of not trusting your manager, facing down bigger and meaner opponents, and wondering what the other bettors have in mind.

fighting3That is all well and good, but there needs to be a bit more of a personal stake in the fights. As if taken right from a handbook on screenwriting, we get the introduction of Shawn's shady past, which is told through the appearance of a fellow fighter whom Shawn knows and who has a secret grudge against our hero. No, I won't give it away here, but it is probably what you are thinking.

As stories go, there is nothing particularly special, fresh, or new to be found here. There is really not that strong to hold onto. Everything about the film is just really mediocre.  This mediocrity extends to the performances, including those from leads Tatum and Howard. The best things about the film are the semi-realistic approach to the romantic subplot and the philosophical bent given to Howard's character.

Bottomline. For a film saddled with the unfortunate title of Fighting, there was not nearly enough of it and what there was, was not terribly skilled. It is generally a rather weak film that will fade, disappear, and be forgotten in rather short order.

Not Recommended.

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