Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Movies: Never Back Down

Off the top of your head, do you know any movies that are set and shot in Orlando, Florida? Well, if you couldn't name one, now you can add teeny-bopper MMA flick "Never Back Down" to your list:

Like oh-so-many action flicks, "Never Back Down" explores the dark world of Orlando's underground high school fight clubs. From that bedrock premise comes a run-time filled with the kind of high-octane excitement that only comes from "Cry_Wolf" director Jeff Wadlow. Every punch, kick, and body slam explodes off the screen!...

All kidding aside, "Never Back Down" does deliver a cascade of unintentionally hilarious moments, especially if you know anything about Orlando or mixed martial arts. The story is crazy enough: troubled teen Jake Tyler (Sean Faris) is having problems at his new school, and he gets sucked into a series of student-organized fights. Jake's completely untrained at the start of the movie, so he seeks the help of Jean Roqua (played by Djimon Hounsou), a local MMA guru.

If you ever wanted to see what a bad director can do to a good actor, just watch the scene where Roqua relays his tragic backstory - the faux intensity Hounsou displays would be ridiculous coming from any actor, but it's especially terrible considering Hounsou is a two-time Oscar nominee. Remember: Pat Morita had essentially the same role in "The Karate Kid," but he pulled it off in a much more entertaining fashion.

The scenes of Orlando high school life are worth the price of admission alone. For some reason, everyone wears swim trunks and bikinis everywhere - as if Orlando were somehow close to the ocean. All the kids except the main character live in palatial homes. Wadlow was obviously trying to capture the feel of Miami without actually having to film in Miami.

But the fights...oh, the fights. First of all, "Never Back Down" gives you a sterilized, Hollywood version of MMA where no one ever gets bloody, even when they're fighting in a parking lot or out on the street. There's no ring doctors or cut men, mind you. It's like seeing a car chase where an Aston Martin slams into a guard rail at 90 mph but only gets a few scratches.

The movie also trivializes the kind of experience necessary to win an MMA match. It's about as egregious as "The Karate Kid," where Daniel learns enough in two months to defeat a two-time karate champion. Unless you're a robot that can train day and night, there's just no way to get that good that fast.

To be fair, it's a better movie than "Never Surrender," if only because Jake has the audience's sympathy, at least initially. Just save a few laughs for the final minute of the movie, where logic gets tossed out of the window and everyone lives happily ever after.

Rating: 3/10


Post a Comment

<< Home