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Fighting (2009)

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Score: 5/10

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.

Release Date: April 24th, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Dito Montiel Actors: Channing Tatum, Terrence Howard, Zulay Henao, Michael Rivera, Flaco Navaja

“F

ighting” capitalizes on the basic entertainment value derived from audiences’ desire to see an underdog rise from the ashes and emerge victorious. Upon closer inspection, the protagonist proves not to be much of an underdog; but at least his battles against adversity and increasingly stronger opponents come with several camera tricks and creative sound effects to emphasize a high level of intensity and brutality, even without the appropriate amount of bloodletting. Channing Tatum convincingly plays the unrefined and uneducated Southern fighter, while Terrence Howard mimics a more iconic hustler. Although the film succeeds in the thrills of ruthless street fighting, it sadly falters in the original story department.

Young Shawn MacArthur (Channing Tatum) is reduced to selling bootlegs on the streets to survive in his newfound home of New York City. But his situation quickly changes when he meets hustler and con man Harvey Boarden (Terrence Howard), who introduces him to the dangerous and highly profitable world of underground street fighting. As he rapidly rises to the top, Shawn’s unwavering code of honor and his troubled past will find him in the match of his life – and a grave struggle just to stay alive.

Terrence Howard will likely receive plenty of praise for his role as a good-intentioned hustler, even though it almost completely duplicates Dustin Hoffman’s famous turn as “Ratso” Rizzo in “Midnight Cowboy.” And as he helps the down-on-his-luck, fish-out-of-water counterfeiter succeed in underground fighting (initially swindling him, then offering a place to stay), it’s difficult not to compare this film’s plot to the aforementioned contemporary classic, augmented with an anti-Rocky Balboa lead (complete with a very brief training montage on a subway). This is minus, of course, “Rocky’s” flawless execution.

When Shawn is most in need of money, he still insists upon his code of honor, refusing to throw a match. This is utterly ridiculous considering his reason for fighting and the fact that the fights themselves are “anything goes.” Where’s the honor in that? Apparently the trophy for integrity outweighs the desire for food and shelter, especially for someone content with living like a derelict.

At least there’s humor found in desperation and comic relief in the quagmire of hustling. The laughably bad supporting villains and perfectly cliché main rival don’t help “Fighting” with the sense of distinction so pressingly needed after swallowing the simplicity of the title. And when the first two fights establish that skills are pointless in the face of an unruly free-for-all, it’s even more difficult to care whether or not Shawn sticks to his principles, wins the girl, gains respect amongst his friends, or defeats his nemeses – all formulaically, and in that order.

– The Massie Twins

 



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