A young man down on his luck in New York City is spotted in a brawl by a hustler and together they arrange street fights to get rich. Sometimes a film can be distilled into a pithy one-line description, belying its depth, subtlety and sheer brilliance. Sadly, Fighting is not one of those films. It really is as simple as it sounds, but worse than that, it’s incredibly boring – which, for an action film about physical combat, is some achievement.
Firstly, for a film called Fighting, there’s remarkably little actual fisticuffs – probably no more than 10 minutes in all. This wouldn’t be a problem if a) those 10 minutes were especially memorable or moving or b) the remaining 95 minutes had anything remotely interesting to say. The fighting is either workaday, improbable or somehow both, while it’s almost as if they’ve literally forgotten to include a plot. For about an hour I seriously wondered if I was witnessing some sort of incredibly clever subversion of classical narrative structure and at any moment it would all be revealed as filmic genius. It never happened. And all the while, the painfully predictable story plodded along without an ounce of urgency, tension or semblance of pace, no thanks to the largely lifeless performances.
Our fighty hero, Shawn, is played by Channing Tatum, star of dance film Step Up. He began his career as a fashion model and it’s tempting to suggest he doesn’t do much more than stand around silently looking rugged and handsome, but that might imply that he’s the worst thing in this. That accolade goes to the script which, when it’s not obvious and uninspiring, is barely there at all. This includes some truly bizarre pauses that could be attempts at portraying naturalistic dialogue but simply end up making the actors look even more stupid than they already do.
The biggest mystery, aside from how it ever got made, is who the film is aimed at. As it’s rated 15 in the UK, there’s none of the visceral edge of something like Fight Club so 15-year-old boys looking for some mindless violence will probably be disappointed, while there’s precious little for anyone with half a brain to get stuck into. Perhaps the answer lies in the production notes, in which it states that Tatum suggested to the director a storyline “in which he could use his raw physicality”, which clearly translates as “something I can wear a vest and look good in” so maybe it’s the teen girl audience he gained from Step Up. Whatever the answer, this is total and utter rubbish, not even falling into the "so bad it’s good" category. Avoid at all costs.