Never Back Down

There’s been a spate of dance movies recently (Step Up 2 and How She Move to name just two) which have appealed to the "youth" market. It’s clear that those films have been marketed as chick flicks, with female leads turning the tables on a male dominated field and coming out on top. Apologies if that has spoilt your enjoyment if you haven’t seen those films, but what were you expecting? Anyway Never Back Down, an almost exact remake of The Karate Kid, is presented for the boys and yet I suspect it will be a hit with the ladies ... couldn’t possibly guess why, though.

Troubled teen Jake Tyler (Faris) moves to a new town with his mother and younger brother. Blaming himself for his father’s death he vows not to get into trouble in his new home but things go awry when someone uncovers YouTube footage of a school fight Tyler had. Jake becomes an instant celebrity which riles the school's resident mixed martial arts champion (no campus is complete without one), and sets in motion an ongoing rivalry. Said champ challenges the new boy and easily defeats him whilst using his girlfriend Baja (Heard) as bait. While recuperating from his beatdown, Tyler seeks guidance from a veteran trainer (Hounsou) and is ready for the return fight.

If you do remember 80s classic The Karate Kid then you’ll have seen this film before. There are nice touches in the form of the online entries and on-the-hoof battles, but overall this is by-the-numbers moviemaking. The performances are fine, and the unfamiliar leads have the advantage of looking very similar to two A-list stars. There is a point when it looks like Brad Pitt is about to destroy Tom Cruise with a flurry of elbows (now I’d pay good money to see that movie). Gigandet in particular even seems to mimic Pitt’s performance in Fight Club down to the delivery of his lines, which is one way of paying homage to your influences I guess.

The "tournament" at the end is a big letdown as we don’t know or care about any of the other competitors, although there is a neat twist where we get to see Tyler prove exactly how little victory in the competition actually means to him. I couldn’t possibly tell you what Hounsou is doing in this film, but his "Miyagi" is very likeable. As is Amber Heard's, but that’s a different story. The title underwent a last minute change - it was initially called Get Some. Rumours that it was going to be called You Got Saved The Last Fight Club in the Yard: 2 The Streets appear unfounded.

Official Site
Never Back Down at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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