NEVER BACK DOWN
At his new high school, rebellious teen, Jake (Sean Faris), is lured into an underground fight club, where he finds a mentor in a mixed martial arts veteran, Jean (Djimon Hounsou). Tormented by guilt over his father's death in a drunken state when Jake should not have let him drive, Jake turns his guilt into anger. When pretty highschooler Baja Miller (Amber Heard) lures him to a party where her hotshot fighter boyfriend Ryan (Cam Gigandet) is waiting to show off with another butt kicking fight, Jake is goaded into a nasty fight. It sets off a series of confrontations that can only end with the Beatdown contest, where mixed martial arts fighters compete for the championship - and status.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Chris Hauty seems to have studied the screenplay recipe book closely, ensuring his script contains all the ingredients that make the fight movie work, from troubled and troublesome teen to mean and tough competitor whose babe doesn't realise she's with the wrong guy until later ... to lots of fight sequences and even a nerdy, sometimes funny sidekick. There is also a younger brother looking up to him and a worried widowed mother stressed about all of it.
The result is an entertaining roller coaster of emotions and actions, with Djimon Hounsou bringing dignity and meaning to his role as Jean, the martial arts coach with his own demons to conquer. Sean Faris and Amber Heard, reminiscent of a younger Tom Cruise and Charlize Theron, make the low key romantic plot work effortlessly, and Faris is also credible as the guilt ridden, angry young man who needs to channel his rage.
Cam Gigandet makes a nasty piece of work out of his Ryan, effectively ensuring that we are on the right side, while Evan Peters is a likeable sidekick, Max, who plays an important role in Jake's progress.
The fight sequences are athletic and robust, but the relationships are also well written and directed, so that the story has some depth and impact. Although predictable in its trajectory, the plot is well devised and the movie looks terrific. Credit to director Jeff Wadlow for making a superior movie that transcends its target market.
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NEVER BACK DOWN (M)
CAST: Sean Faris, Amber Heard, Cam Gigandet, Evan Peters, Leslie Hope, Djimon Hounsou, Wyatt Smith,
PRODUCER: Craig Baumgarten, David Zelon
DIRECTOR: Jeff Wadlow
SCRIPT: Chris Hauty
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lukas Ettlin
EDITOR: Victor Du Bois, Debra Weinfield
MUSIC: Michael Wandmacher
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ida Random
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 27, 2008
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.