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Under-appreciated and worth a watch...
I never gave Fighting enough credit to watch at the cinema as I expected a glitzed up martial arts "drama" about a a teenager who kicks the s*!t out of expert fighters, and to some extent that is what I got.
On the other hand, though, Fighting impressed me with the atmosphere it created right from the word go. Channing Tatum's character (Shawn MacArthur) is introduced with little dialogue, but still manages to make the audience sympathise with a poor, average Joe just trying to get by.
"Trying to get by" is definitely a recurring theme throughout the movie, with Terrence Howards's character Harvey gradually exposed and other supporting characters come to light.
This sympathy for the protagonist certainly increases the intensity of the film, with the viewer really feeling the anxiety of the fighter before a fight. This, effectively, builds the hype before the fights as the actual build up to each is quite small with much of the time taken up by the personal lives of the characters.
The actual fight scenes in the movie are ultimately less glamorous than the likes of Never Back Down. The fights, thankfully, don't noticeably include the over-the-top sound effects often included in Hollywood fight films (like the "woosh" of fists and the "thuds" of landed punches), but instead keeps the more realistic, skin-to-skin slapping sound, which, in my view, made the film much more gritty and, to an extent, more believable.
Another feature of the film worth mentioning is it's often dark, interesting and under-appreciated settings, creating the feeling that both the viewer and protagonist are being lured into different worlds, worlds where we don't belong, from seedy shops run by Russian mobsters to snazzy rooftop gardens.
Overall the film creates an interesting feeling of tension and anxiety, with genuine want for the characters to do well, but, though at times is surprising, Fighting is generally quite predictable.
The movie has some (plenty) of plot holes within the character developments, but it makes up for it with the a better standard of violent brawls, which if you are watching a film named "Fighting", should really be what your looking for.