Before he loaded up as Duke in the recent hit G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Alabama-born Channing Tatum whipped some major butt in this action-drama that features some pretty good fight scenes plus some really good performances from the cast.
Tatum plays Shawn MacArthur, a young man from Alabama who has come to New York City to somehow get on with his life. Selling knock offs, Shawn encounters Harvey Boarden, a two-bit hustler, who is hoping to find some new talent for an underground fight ring. When Harvey is impressed when Shawn throws down against some of his boys, Harvey gives Shawn a chance to make some real money by fighting.
As Shawn begins to fight and win, he begins to fall for local club waitress Zulay, who lives with her grandmother and daughter. As the stakes begin to get higher for Shawn, he finds an old face in Evan Hailey, a former protégé of Shawn’s father who Shawn has had his problems with. Evan is the top dog in the underground fight world and despite dark truths being revealed, a showdown between the rivals is inevitable.
With underground fighting being the new “fad” of action films, this may bode off as no exception. However, this is one of those rarities where the use of character development makes this film plausible and watchable. Channing Tatum gives out a great performance as Shawn, the Alabama-bred man who becomes the talk of the town when he competes in the underground fight circuit. As the movie goes on, we get to learn why Shawn has a sense of inner demons within him that he lets out once he fights. It may cause one to pose mixed feelings about him. Yes, he has a taste for fighting for money, but in some aspect, he also wants to do the right thing and in a way, give himself a sense of redemption.
Terrence Howard is definitely a respectable actor who proves he can make any role work. Here is no exception. As two-bit hustler Harvey, Howard brings kind of a “big brother” role to Shawn, trying to help him in any way possible. This includes letting the rookie stay at his place and help him make more money. As the film progresses, Harvey does have his share of dark truths, and eventually, like Shawn, he feels he needs to find a way to redeem and repent for his past mistakes as well.
The film is not just your ordinary fight movie. It is more of a tale of redemption for these two. In some ways, even the character of Zulay, played by Zulay Henao, needed a sense of redemption. As a single mother working as a club waitress, she feels she can do better. Sure, she becomes Shawn’s love interest, but it is revealed she is much more than what one would think.
The action scenes, choreographed by Mike Gunther, were not too bad for this type of film. While the more flashy moves were mostly taken out, with the exception of Shawn against Dragon Le (played by kickboxing champion/actor Cung Le), the action mostly consisted of knock out, drag out fighting that is more reminiscent of those good old fashioned bare knuckle drabs that Clint Eastwood used to do in Any Which Way But Loose and Every Which Way You Can, but with a dose of the big mixed martial arts stuff. They prove not to be too bad for this film, yet at times, one feels that they could have been edited just a little better.
Nevertheless, Fighting is a decent effort from director Dito Montiel. It had a story about redemption through the underground fight world, the dark side of said underground fighting, but the performances of Tatum and Howard really moved the film forward and ultimately, watchable.
WFG RATING: B
Rogue Pictures presents a Misher Films production in association with 5150 Action/Relativity Media/Scion Films/Twins Financing. Director: Dino Montiel. Producer: Kevin Misher. Writers:
Robert Munic and Dino Montiel. Cinematography: Stefan Czapsky. Editing: Saar Klein and Jake Pushinsky.
Cast: Channing Tatum, Terrence Howard, Zulay Henao, Michael Rivera, Flaco Navaja, Peter Tambakis, Luis Guzman, Anthony DeSando, Roger Guenveur Smith, Brian J. White, Altagracia Guzman.