Movie Review for Fighting (2009)

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Fighting (2009) [PG-13]
W.I.P. Scale™ Rating: $7.50

| Released on: 4/24/2009 | Running Time: 105 minutes |
| official web site | | preview trailer |
| spoiler || 2cOrNot2c |

Directed by: Dito Montiel (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints)
Written by: Robert Munic ("The Cleaner") and Dito Montiel (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints)
Unsung Member of the Crew: Gaffer – Mo Flam

Featured Cast: (where you might remember him/her from)
Channing Tatum (Stop-Loss) • Terrence Howard (Iron Man) • Brian J. White (12 Rounds) • Luis Guzmán (He's Just Not That Into You) • Zulay Henao (Saturday Morning) • Flaco Navaja (Pride and Glory)

Writer / Director Dito Montiel has done it again. Following precisely the same pattern as with his debut film A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints his second film, Fighting, looks to be so great in the trailer however falls far short of expectations at theatrical length. Utilizing the talent of up and coming James Dean replacement, Channing Tatum, as his featured star and the setting of New York City, this film deals not with gangs of New York but with the elite fight club culture. Somewhere on the circuit between Fight Club and Never Back Down, Mr. Montiel must have felt there was a least one more dude fighting movie story out there to tell. It’s a shame because the fighting in the film isn’t all that great, somewhat derivative, and far less imaginative than its bare-knuckle predecessors. The same story here about a down and out, not too bright former Alabaman all-star, high school wrestler, Shawn MacArthur (Tatum) who apparently leaves the deep South to find his fortunes in NYC after fighting tirelessly with his father – a fact we can only draw from inference later in the film. After what surely appears to be a set up, a long-on-dreams-short-on-delivery, two-bit fight champ hustler named Harvey Boarden (Terrence Howard) seems to conjure a fight between MacArthur and some of his posse members. The fight is catalyzed when a walk up to Shawn’s sidewalk, blanket-based bookstore wants her $20 back because she’s never heard of Harry Potter and the Hippopotamus. Shoving ensues and Shawn supposedly shows off enough stuff to pique Harvey’s interest. [Whether this was or wasn’t an actual set-up is one of the film’s many plot holes you’ll want to fill in so as to be willing to keep watching.] In any case, Shawn, broke and in despair, is eventually lured into a big money game of fights and gambling with Harvey has his promoter. Meanwhile, the book buyer, turns out to be Zulay Valez (Zulay Henao – how convenient that they were able to find an actress who just happened to be named the same name as her character – or is it ironic – or is it just another in a series of contrivances that riddle this film and rub all the luster right off of it – whom Shawn keeps running into and realizing that he really likes and wants to date her. After Shawn tosses is first fight opponent into sink knocking him senseless, his reputation starts to build. Lo and behold, he runs into his high school wrestling teammate, Evan Hailey (Brian White – the soup du jour of fight movies) who is now a professional fighter in the illegal fight circuit funded by trust fund babies, trinket shop owner who use their shops as fronts for their illegal gambling business the ring leader of whom is Jack Dancing (Roger Guenveur Smith). The film seem desperate to find a new angle on this fight culture and a new way to pitch the underdog story. That desperation and the predictable, inevitable fight match between Evan and Shawn serve to unravel the film’s haphazard plot from the beginning. it’s too bad, because there are a lot of people who didn’t see Saints, and apparently are still willing to gamble on Dito Montiel but whom may not be so willing to go along with the concept next time.

... the fighting in the film isn’t all that great, somewhat derivative, and far less imaginative than its bare-knuckle predecessors.
Since his film debut performance as Jason Lyle in Coach Carter, Channing Tatum has had leading man written all over his rugged face and polite southern charm. Despite this and other breakout roles, he’s yet to light up the screen with his full potential. Fortunately, he’s got several films in pre and post production, perhaps on of them will be worthy of his talent. Fortunately, were it not for the film-making machine of Hollywood in the 2000s, this film could have also wiped out the career of Terrence Howard. The good Lord only knows what drew him to this half-witted character of Harvey Boarden. It’s also difficult to tell if he’s chosen to play the character as having only slightly more brains than a bottle of syrup or if it was Montiel’s direction and writing that sinks the character. Either way, his performance is nearly unable to be viewed seriously. Brian White isn’t known for his acting prowess, but rather his ability to intimidate upon removal of his shirt. For this film he may as well have kept it on. The only acting highlight was that delivered by Zulay Henao who plays the complicated single mother, Zulay, who’s behind in her rent, working several jobs to barely make ends meet, and finds herself in the middle of this high stakes game of fighting and hustling. Her portrayal is tender and insightful especially in comparison to the cardboard cutouts that surround her. It’s a good thing that theatre patrons aren’t typically armed and the images on screen aren’t the real people, or Luis Guzmán would find himself in a world of hurt for his relentlessly annoying performance as Martinez, Harvey’s former friend and no arch-rival.

... the film is predictable with a lackluster ending that takes you nowhere fast.
The film’s odd cinematography that seems to be shades of wannabee-Tarantino but fails miserably begins with mixed up shots of New York City under titles colorized and in a font that’s straight off a 1970s game show. All this grittiness makes it seem like the film was taking place in the 1970s where it might have fit better and seemed more original. But, when Shawn starts getting text messages on his cell phone, we know, alas, this is present day. For present day, the film is a fish out of water with too many better films having already covered this territory. There was a point where the plot had a chance at redemption, but it didn’t go there leaving the film with a lackluster ending and having taken us no where fast.

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