6.6/10
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182 user 139 critic

Never Back Down (2008)

PG-13 | | Action, Drama, Sport | 14 March 2008 (USA)
A frustrated and conflicted teenager arrives at a new highschool to discover an underground fightclub and meet a classmate who begins to coerce him into fighting.

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Beat Down Referee
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Storyline

At his new high school, a rebellious teen Jake Tyler is lured into an ultimate underground fighting club in a Backyard Fight, where he finds a mentor in a mixed martial arts veteran. After receiving threats to the safety of his friends and family, Jake seeks the mentoring of a veteran fighter, to train his mind and body for one final no-holds-barred elimination fight with his unrelenting personal nemesis and local martial arts champion Ryan McCarthy. Written by Anthony Pereyra {hypersonic91@yahoo.com}

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Win or Lose... Everyone Has Their Fight

Genres:

Action | Drama | Sport

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving intense sequences of fighting/violence, some sexuality, partying and language - all involving teens | See all certifications »

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14 March 2008 (USA)  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$8,603,195 (USA) (14 March 2008)

Gross:

$24,848,292 (USA) (30 May 2008)
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2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Sean Faris gained 15 lbs. of muscle for his role. See more »

Goofs

iPhones were used throughout the movie to record the fights. This movie was released in 2008, video capability for the iPhone wasn't available until Summer of 2009. See more »

Quotes

Ryan McCarthy: Enjoy the floor.
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Connections

References American Pie (1999) See more »

Soundtracks

Be Safe
Written by Gary John Jarman, Ross Anthony Jarman, Ryan Jarman (as Ryan James Jarman) and Lee Ranaldo
Performed by The Cribs
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc. and Wichita Recordings
By Arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing
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User Reviews

 
"The Karate Kid" plus MMA (mixed martial arts); by-the-numbers all the way
14 March 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Don't tap-out yet!

From reading the title "Never Back Down," you get the impression that what you're about to watch will be something pretty macho and also pretty lame - a bad combination. The claims of this being a remake of "The Karate Kid" plus "Fight Club" and mixed martial arts is not undeserved or inappropriate. What it does aim to be, is a "Karate Kid" for the MTV generation and a generation of kids who may think that MMA is the future of the martial arts.

As a casual fan of mixed martial arts, the gladiator-style spectacle of this sport goes all the way back to the Greeks, with their sport Pankration (which pretty much resembles today's MMA). The idea of cross-training and mixing techniques of different fighting styles gained popularity in the 20th century with Bruce Lee and his theories on Jeet Kune Do (which when translated from Cantonese, means "the way of the intercepting fist"). However, mixed martial arts, as we know it today in the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC), PRIDE and other MMA organizations, gained widespread recognition when Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu grappler Royce Gracie won UFC 1 in 1993. Since then, a revolution has been sparked in the world of full-contact fighting. (On a side, UFC president Dana White considers Bruce Lee the "father of modern mixed martial arts.")

In "Never Back Down," which seeks to promote MMA for the mainstream, Jake Tyler (Sean Faris, who looks remarkably like a young Tom Cruise) is a promising football player who is relocated with his widowed mother and younger brother from their home in Iowa to the posh surroundings of upper-class Orlando, Florida; they opt for a cramped apartment in suburbia away from the surf and bikini-clad babes. Right away, it's established that Jake's a born brawler and has a chip on his shoulder, so right away the filmmakers are attempting to remove themselves from the "Karate Kid" legacy.

Right away, he locks eyes on the pretty blonde Baja Miller (Amber Heard, uh-huh), and she invites new-kid Jake to a party later that night. At this same party, he locks heads with rich-boy Ryan McCarthy (Cam Gigandet), a champion MMA fighter who gets the upper hand on Jake and beats him to a pulp in a no-holds-barred brawl.

All hope is not lost. On his first day of school, Jake had witnessed a fight happening under the bleachers, where an outcast kid named Max (Evan Peters) was getting his butt kicked by Ryan and his goons. It just so happens that Max is being trained by the legendary MMA champ Jean Roqua (Djimon Hounsou) and takes him under his wing. So cue the MTV soundtrack and training montage.

In terms of being a simple martial arts movie, "Never Back Down" is nothing new. Plenty of martial arts movies have been made about the bullied good guy who gets his butt kicked, learns to fight from a master, and tests out his newfound skills by getting revenge on his tormentors in the ring. The by-the-numbers script by Chris Hauty pays attention to a few of the details of modern mixed martial arts training, but doesn't really go into any real depth about it, even if some of the harsher stuff is only glossed over for the sake of trying to mainstream it. But I also guess that this Jeff Wadlow-directed vehicle has seen way too many better movies, and it's inherently self-referential toward them.

"Never Back Down," I guess, is a fun way to spend $7.75 (what I spent); at the very least, even if the plot is formulaic, it's still entertaining. The acting, writing and plot are decent, but still, the performances, acting and writing, like everything else, are by-the-numbers. Although we don't really wade grimly through worthless dialogue scenes, we do perk up for the fighting and training sequences. The best thing about these scenes is that they're authentic: what the actors are doing is so "real" you "believe" it. As brutal as they are (even for a "PG-13"-rated movie), they're fairly exciting and there isn't a whole bunch of flashy camera cutting that takes away from the intensity of the full-contact punching and kicking. The camera stays put for the most part and isn't moving all over the place. It looks like the actors are really going at it, and it looks like it hurts. So you "believe" it in a way you don't really do for a lot of martial arts movies made in America these days.

And that's what no-holds-barred is all about, right?

6/10


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