Published Mar 13, 2008The UFC has been blowing up in popularity lately, and it was only a matter of time before it took Hollywood firmly in its grip and rear-naked-choked it into submission. Never Back Down is an interesting take on the fight movie genre; its Karate Kid mixed with Fight Club, taking place at The O.C., and its actually pretty good.
Essentially the film is a formulaic teen drama about Jake (Sean Faris, who looks eerily like a young Tom Cruise, from certain angles), an angry young Iowan who gets transplanted to Florida, where wealthy, tech-savvy teens already know about his brawling past (thanks to YouTube) and are ready to pull him into their no-holds-barred fight club world.
Jake resists at first, but eventually starts training with John Roqua (Djimon Hounsou, who gets one good Oscar-nominee-worthy crying scene), a mixed martial arts expert who teaches him to cool his anger as he improves his technique. From the first slow motion knockout to the last, the fight choreography in the film is pretty solid, entertaining and realistic. Real UFC fans, or those who have attempted the sport as a fitness regime, will know that the gruelling training montages and intense moves are for real, and that makes them all the more fun to watch.
Of course, theres a pretty girl and a nemesis for Jake to fight the well trained, popular but heartless Ryan (Cam Gigandet). Add a hard working single mom, some personal demons to overcome, pepper liberally with MMA lingo (charmingly expository dialogue about "arm bars and references to "the Gracies, the de facto inventors of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) and voila.
Never Back Down is a fun teen movie that I suspect will usher in a new era of MMA-centric fight films coming out of Hollywood. I mean, even David Mamet is making one! (Seville)