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Overall Rating

Awesome: 13.64%
Worth A Look: 4.55%
Average: 9.09%
Pretty Bad: 4.55%
Total Crap68.18%

2 reviews, 10 user ratings

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Never Back Down
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by Lybarger

"‘Never Pay Your Own Money’ to see this."
1 stars

‘Never Back Down’ is a movie about Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) that made by people who have no respect for the sport or its fans. Director Jeff Wadlow and screenwriter Chris Hauty offer viewers nothing that they can’t see done better on Spike TV or one of the ESPN clones.

Basic cable viewers don’t have to suffer through the predictable exposition, inept acting and poorly choreographed and shot fights. In most TV sporting events, the camera crews photograph and assemble the events so that viewers can follow the action.

In ‘Never Back Down,’ Wadlow quick cuts and hyperactive camera work reduce the bouts to confusing blurs. It’s as if he was imitating 80s music videos instead delivering a story.

As a fan of martial arts and boxing, I love movies like “Raging Bull” or “Once Upon a Time in China” where viewers can take in the staged fights and feel as if they are either dodging the punches with the fighters or can admire the agility of a performer like Jet Li.

No such luck here. But the technical ineptitude is only a small part of the pain of catching ‘Never Back Down.’ The story borrows pretty much all of the plot points from “The Karate Kid” but has none of the charm of its predecessor.

Twenty-five-year-old Sean Faris plays a high school student named Jake Tyler who has moved with his family from the Midwest to Orlando. One begins to wonder if the mature-looking Jake has been left back a few years or even a decade because he certainly looks old enough to be teaching the classes, much less attending them.

Apparently, Jake is depressed because he allowed his father to die in an alcohol-soaked car accident. He often takes out his anger by punching people who give him grief. This attracts the attention of a local bully named Ryan McCarthy (Cam Gigandet, who like Faris, is too long in tooth to be a teen).

Ryan regularly takes part in local underground matches or “Beatdowns,” where he often turns his opponents into bloody pulps. Jake quickly senses he’s out of Ryan’s league (this happens when you receive a horrendous pummeling), so he and his annoying YouTube-addicted sidekick (Evan Peters) consult a demanding trainer.

The trainer in question, Roquoa (slumming two-time Oscar-nominee Djimon Hounsou), runs a facility that, as its name implies, is open 365 days a year (apparently nobody thought about leap years in this flick). Roquoa, whose name must be Swahili for “Mr. Miyagi,” literally lives in his gym and forces his students to avoid fighting outside of class.

Jake’s questionable judgment guarantees he’ll run afoul of that requirement. For all the flaws of the “The Karate Kid” movies, they at least had the decency to stress that there’s more to martial arts than punching people you don’t like. Any enthusiast of the sport will tell you the skills involve getting out of fights as much as winning the ones you can’t avoid.

“Never Back Down,” however, teaches young people (and any ticket holder with a mental age of 10) that all problems can be handled by violence. At times, I was under the impression that some math equations could even be solved by an upper-cut. People in this film don’t pack guns or call the police when assaulted.

Thanks to the wretched performances, it’s not likely this film will catch on to influence generations of impressionable people. Leading lady Amber Heard, whose character romances both Jake and Ryan, has difficulty reciting dialog, so Wadlow makes sure that the camera is always aimed at her ample chest.

The real romance in the film, however, seems to come during the fights. The combatants leer at each other as if they were expecting long kisses instead of broken bones. At times the words “Ultimate Brokeback” ran through my mind during the screening.

For lazily going where many better filmmakers have gone before, the people behind “Never Back Down” deserve a fate like Ryan’s opponents.

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originally posted: 03/14/08 21:00:00
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User Comments

10/15/09 I saw it for free and I still felt robbed. It was gay and over the top. I hate the OC, I hate MTV and I hate this 1 stars
1/21/09 james paul sickk film, how cant you like it well obvs if you a fat frikin geek who read books 5 stars
8/03/08 action movie fan excitng but predictable Kartae Kid knock off 3 stars
5/12/08 Josh My FAVE movie of all time 5 stars
4/07/08 John completely awsome 5 stars
4/04/08 gcc Rips off karatekid/rocky/bloodsport/fight club, and I've seen better acting in porn. 1 stars
3/29/08 Renee Griffin I Really Liked this movie 4 stars
3/19/08 Bnorm Fighting was ok, main character was really annoying. The chick was sexy though 3 stars
3/15/08 stacy berg I wouldnt go see this 2 stars
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  14-Mar-2008 (PG-13)



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