Brutal fighting, and some homilies in "Never Back Down"
Watching a movie about young people beating one another's brains out — the makers of "Never Back Down" would have us believe ...
Special to The Seattle Times
Movie review"Never Back Down," with Sean Faris, Cam Gigandet, Amber Heard, Djimon Hounsou. Directed by Jeff Wadlow, from a screenplay by Chris Hauty. 110 minutes. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving intense sequences of fighting/violence, some sexuality, partying and language. Several theaters.
Watching a movie about young people beating one another's brains out — the makers of "Never Back Down" would have us believe — is all right as long as the script includes sprinklings of warrior wisdom.
Such as: Each one of us has a fight we have to fight in order to be complete; or, the outcome of a fight is entirely determined by whoever knows how to shift control over it.
Well, duh. I could have gleaned that from watching "Semi-Pro," and I wouldn't have had to see two teenage boys (played by a pair of 25-year-old actors) killing each other over and over again.
In this nauseating fusion of "The Karate Kid" and "Fight Club," "Never Back Down" follows the life and times of angry teen Jake (Sean Faris). Jake's brawls on the football field become required viewing for the YouTube crowd, drawing the attention of a pathological rich kid, Ryan (Tacoma native Cam Gigandet), who lures Jake into a severe beating at a party.
Looking for revenge, Jake turns to a Senegalese fighter named Roqua (Djimon Hounsou), who teaches a form of integrated self-defense and control over wayward emotions. Every bit as alone and tormented as Pat Morita's Mr. Miyagi in "The Karate Kid," Roqua wants Jake to learn to fight so that he doesn't actually have to — because the knowledge that he can should be enough.
Yeah, right. Not fighting is going to sell tickets to those who love these injury flicks.
Violence aside, the film actually does contain some promising actors. Gigandet (TV's "Jack & Bobby," "The O.C.") particularly looks like a talent to watch. Faris (TV's "Reunion") has some big-screen potential, too, as does Amber Heard as the girlfriend who jumps from Ryan to Jake.
Towering above all is Hounsou, however, whose performance grants "Never Back Down" a measure of dignity.
Tom Keogh: email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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