Fighting (DVD)

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Fighting (DVD)

A small-town boy hustling his way through the big city forms an uneasy alliance with a scam artist who inducts him into the violent world of bare-knuc...

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Review of "Fighting (DVD)"

published 03/09/2010 | afy9mab
Member since : 11/07/2000
Reviews : 1480
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About me :
All of my DVD reviews are film only, so do not include pricing information. If you have time, please read and rate my Batman V Superman review.
Not for me
Pro Channing Tatum takes his shirt off a lot.
Cons Poor direction, generic writing, phoned-in performances and poor fight choreography.
very helpful
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"Fighting to Stay Awake"

Shawn MacArthur is a young down-on-his-luck street hustler trying to make a living selling knock-offs in New York. When he takes on a thief trying to steal his goods, he’s spotted by the smooth-talking Harvey Boarden who recognises his natural talent for fighting. Harvey tells Shawn he can make him lots of money in underground bare-knuckle fighting circuit. There the only rule is that if you don’t win you don’t get paid. He quickly rises through the ranks to become a star, taking down all-comers in a series of crunching bouts. But the odds seem stacked against him when a powerful syndicate wants Shawn to fight one of their own and the winner will walk away with half a million dollars.

Dito Montiel’s first movie “A Guide to Recognising Your Saints” was lauded for its gritty depiction of New York life. To be honest I wasn’t that impressed because all the grit in the world couldn’t distract from the generic storyline. The same is true of his sophomore effort; although you may get an insight into what it’s like to be poor on the streets of the Big Apple, there’s nothing original about the movie. It looks exactly like any one of a hundred other low-budget independent movie thanks to the grainy film, the natural lighting and the frequent use of filler material between scenes (in this case, aerial shots of the city and cutaways to people best described as ‘local colour’). It makes the movie look cheap, as does his habit of chopping back and forth between characters during conversations. It looks like the director has only got one camera and he hasn’t figured out the value of the two-shot (where you can see both participants in the same frame). He also relies heavily on cinematic clichés, whether it’s fading to black for a sex scene, using montages to show the main character’s everyday life or slow-motions knockout blows. Montiel is guilty of a lot of self-indulgent navel-gazing best illustrated by excessively long pauses. He may think he’s allowing the film to unfurl at a natural pace, but to me it felt as though he was taking too long to say anything pertinent. And when it got down to it he had nothing new to say anyway. So the hundred-and-five minute running-time felt overlong.

It might help if the director spent more time on character development, but the majority of players are presented as more or less interchangeable low-rent grifters. So there’s little to differentiate between them and it’s virtually impossible to care about any of them. And the whole project sits under a pall of predictability, so it feels as though we’re marking time until the inevitable big fight. And to be honest, the fight choreography isn’t of the highest order. The bouts of fisticuffs look scrappy and the choppy camerawork misses many of the blows.

The screenplay by Montiel and Robert Munic is the lamest kind of “Rocky”/”Karate Kid” hybrid. We’ve all seen a variation on the film about the plucky underdog who works his way up through the ranks, picking off opponents, gaining respect and finding love along the way before he comes up against his biggest opponent (against whom he holds a personal grudge) in the climactic final showdown. There are no prizes for guessing the outcome - although it does beg the question why anyone would fund such a movie. However, there are absolutely no deviations from the template, so you can predict everything that will happen from the moment the film starts. Consequently it always feels like we’re going through the motions and any suggestion of victory or emotion is hollow.

The characterisation is bland. Shawn is a talented young man who gets by the only way he knows how. The revelation that he has a dark secret in his background is par for the course and his relationship with nightclub waitress Zulay feels like a sop to Hollywood convention. Harvey initially comes across as a Fagin-type character because he has a gang of kids around him who go out and steal. Then the writers decide he’s more of a backroom entrepreneur with his fingers in many pies, despite the fact that he seems incapable of having a sustained conversation with anyone. Zulay is an indie film cliché; the strong, sassy independent single mother who knows and is capable of more than anyone would credit her with. Bad guy Evan Hailey is a mouthy, arrogant bloke with a bad attitude and a serious chip on his shoulder. So of course he’s unlikeable, but he’s not original. The dialogue is relatively sparse and lacks insight.

I like Channing Tatum because he has undeniable presence and is easy on the eye. He also tends to pick interesting projects. But this isn’t one of them. Despite his charisma, Shawn feels like a stock character; the character’s meant to be a brooding hero but this is merely relayed in a tense jaw by the actor. There may be more going on behind the taciturn demeanour, but we’re never allowed to see what that is.

I do not like Terrence Howard as Harvey Boarden because the actor seems to have boiled down the role’s intricacies to a slow yet whiny voice and a series of irritating tics. This makes him appear as though he doesn’t have a long enough attention span to order a pizza, let alone plan his own personal empire. Zulay Henao, who plays Zulay is very pretty but undermined by the writing, which leaves her as little more than a plot device. Brian White, who plays narcissistic fighter Evan Hailey comes across as angry, rude, arrogant and smug. But there’s no underlying humanity to make the character a real person. Luis Guzmán also pops up as the wheedling Martinez.

The original music by Jonathan Elias and David Wittman seems to have a split personality. Half the score is made from electronic music such as arrangements of drum and funk loops, flute samples and drum machines and piano paired with scratch. Meanwhile the other sticks to traditional orchestral motifs, focussing on warm strings and acoustic guitar for Zulay, traditional Asian percussion for a culturally specific fight, soft piano and strings for emotional moments and piano and acoustic guitar for an instance of betrayal. On occasion the variety works well but at other times it leads to jarring shifts in tone.

“Fighting” is a generic rise of the underdog tale that is nowhere near as gritty or realistic as it thinks it is. The direction is pedestrian and the writing is hackneyed. Even the performances lack the spark required to make the film more than the sum of its parts. The end result is a terribly dull little indie film that thinks itself far better than it is and drags everything out beyond endurance. The punch-ups won’t even satisfy you if you’re after a generic fight flick. I was bored senseless throughout and can’t think of any reasons to recommend it.

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Comments on this review

  • catsholiday published 04/09/2010
    Nicely reviewed but does not tempt me at all.
  • MEL0611 published 03/09/2010
    Great read x
  • CelticSoulSister published 03/09/2010
    Sounds abysmal!
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Product Information : Fighting (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

A small-town boy hustling his way through the big city forms an uneasy alliance with a scam artist who inducts him into the violent world of bare-knuckle brawling in A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS writer/director Dito Montiel's unforgiving urban action film. Arriving in New York City with little more than the shirt on his back, Shawn MacArthur (Channing Tatum) makes ends meet by selling counterfeit goods on the street. But times are tough and money is short, and just as things are starting to look grim, Shawn crosses paths with crafty con artist Harvey Boarden (Terrence Howard). Harvey instantly recognizes Shawn's natural talent for street fighting, and offers to help the uneasy newcomer make some quick cash on the bare-knuckle circuit. But making a living by brawling isn't easy because the system is hopelessly corrupt, and the only people who really come out on top are the rich businessmen who place wagers on the disposable fighters. Still, Harvey's instincts were right, and Shawn quickly makes a name for himself by taking down every opponent who crosses his path, including mixed martial arts champs, veteran pugilists, and ultimate fighters. As each bout becomes more intense, Shawn realizes that his only hope for escaping this dark world is to face his fiercest opponent to date.

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