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The General Idea
At his new high school, rebellious Jake Tyler (Sean Faris) is lured into an underground fight club. With the help of legendary Brazilian MMA trainer Jean Roqua (Djimon Hounsou) Jake learns to focus his natural fighting ability and in the process, masters his emotions. When a new found nemesis leaves Jake no choice but to fight; combat is initiated with strength of mind and body.
Going in I was skeptical about the fighting. As one of the first MMA films to date, I didn’t expect this one to knock it out of the park. Well, I was wrong. The crazy bastards involved with this project trained a disgusting about (6 hours a day, 6 days a week for 3 months) and as a result, they were ripped to shit fighting machines with the skills to kill. The fighting in this movie was an accurate depiction of MMA combat (with the exception of a few too many high kicks added for theatrical effect) and they kept it extremely entertaining. This is a warrior’s tale and it doesn’t insult the practitioners of MMA with bullshit fight sequences. The people involved should be very proud of the work they put into the fight choreography, the hard work paid off and we all benefit from it.
Much of this film takes place at school. We are introduced to some teenage drama and this is where the film could have gotten incredibly lame. Instead, we get a fairly accurate account of what is going on in affluent schools today. This is no surprise because the writer actually got the idea for this film from actual events. One day his son came home from his Santa Monica high school – told his father about a fight (that the news declared a riot) and then showed him clips of the scrap on MySpace. In less that a few hours fight footage taken via camera phone was on the net for all to see. A light-bulb went off, and the script was born. Throughout the writing process teens were consulted about the story and gave their honest opinion on the dialogue, reactions and interaction of the characters.
This film has a plethora of sluts in bikinis and topless dudes in shorts; there is eye candy for everybody. You never see total nudity, but the amount of skin in this film is both abundant and glorious. I always argue that you need titillation in your action films; it ramps up testosterone and gives you the necessary hormonal shift to fully enjoy your violence (and vice vera). Sluts in a pool are always a quality addition to any high school/frat film. The use of gratuitous skin is where high school and action films intersect and “the bikini” was the glue that held the two genres together.
Djimon Hounsou gives an amazing performance as a dedicated Dojo Legend, and he inspires others to do the same. The acting overall in this film was great, the dialogue was snappy and for a change I didn’t hate the love interest. In fact, Baja (Amber Heard) is quite likable and comes off as an intelligent and socially delightful maiden that’s worth fighting for – this is a welcome deviation from norm.
There isn’t much that bothered me with this film. But during the last fight sequence I did find the “shaky cam” a bit off-putting and I would have rather seen more static shots in their place. At a round table last week Director Jeff Wadlow discussed the use of small “lipstick cameras” on the heads of the actors during this sequence. I believe these guys were the objects of my disdain. Wadlow used the cameras so we would get a feel of what it would be like in that situation. I appreciate that he tried something new, and wanted to bring us into the action, but for me it had the opposite effect.
The trailers for this film fucking suck.
This was a formulaic, feel good fight film that did what it set out to do very, very well. You should check it out, and out of 10, I give Never Back Down an 8.
Never Back Down is in theaters March 14 2008