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Directed by Jeff Wadlow
Starring Sean Faris, Amber Heard and Djimon Hounsou
Review by Eli Manning
At his new high school, a rebellious teen (Faris) is lured into an underground fight club, where he finds a mentor in a mixed martial arts veteran (Hounsou). And then you have a Never Back Down scenario!
There's a Classic Movie Review that was written on this website a couple of days ago (READ NOW: THE KARATE KID) that was fitting. Because I'm assuming Never Back Down was supposed to be the 2000 version of that classic film.
This time Sean Faris is Jake Tyler to Daniel-Son's Ralph Macchio. The new kid in town who immediately gets smitten with a cute girl while also being lured into a Fight Club for teenagers. So I guess the writer first pitched this idea as The Karate Kid meets Fight Club; which is exactly what this film is.
There are many cliches in this film. And there really is no spoiler here because most people are expecting these plot points:
1) There's the ultimate bad boy who serves as the somewhat bad boy's (but our hero) antagonist. And you know there's going to be
a final man-o-mano ending. But first our main character must lose in the first act in order to set up the final act.
2) The guru mentor who teaches our protagonist the ways of the world while also teaching him the ways of fighting. The voided father figure for our protagonist.
3) The girl. There's always the girl.
4) And the generic title, Never Back Down, that says it all!
This is a film destined to be shown at 3 a.m. on TBS or Spike T.V.. It is that kind of film, but it's a little better than say Kickboxer 6 or Under Siege 4. It has something because you can tell there was a talented group of people involved in making this film.
The director Jeff Wadlow definitely knows what he's doing. He films the fight scenes with crispness and action and it makes you wonder what he would do with a script with originality. The acting is fine too as the leads are stars in the making and you haven't seen the last of them. It is unfortunate to see the likes of Djimon Hounsou (Amistad), who seemed to have a promising career only to have him make his living in these types of films.
I'm not saying this is a bad film, but you're going to get exactly what you expect and your expectations will not be disappointed. It's as good a film as it can be. It just didn't have the script that could of made this great film.It does make you wonder though if they used the template for The Karate Kid (which is pretty obvious), and then throw that idea to our technology filled modern world, why did the leave out the emotion and tenderness of the main mentor/protege relationship?
What makes The Karate Kid work is that the mentor teaches young Daniel to be his own man and respect life. As a young teenager I craved a man like Mr. Miyagi. I wasn't looking for someone to teach me how to fight, I was looking for someone to teach me to understand what this madness of life is and to find my moral center.
The Karate Kid will stay with this world for years to come as Never Back Down will not be remembered by most even next week. This was a great chance to have a quasi remake of The Karate Kid., because it's a movie that everyone would want to see, not just young men which is exactly what this film is made for. But they went the modern day route and showed us a lot of flare and not enough emotion. And EMOTION is what the world always remembers.
Yes, the teenage boys and young men will like this film, but this film had a great opportunity for everyone to like it. There is something here, it's just too bad.
2 1/2 stars out of 4.