March 26th, 2009

NEVER BACK DOWN (2008) **

A high school student named Jake (Sean Faris, who looks like Risky Business era Tom Cruise) moves from his cracker town in Iowa to the ritzy glow of Orlando.  Since everyone in his new school saw him beat the crap out a bunch of dudes during a football game on YouTube, they know Jake can throw down.  Ryan (Cam Gigandet) is a rich douche bag that invites Jake to a party that is actually just a front for some underground UFC style fights and quickly mops the floor with him.  Because Jake is just a straight boxer, he doesn't have what it takes to tussle with the mixed martial arts aspects of the UFC stuff, so he trains with a hard ass martial arts instructor (Dijmon Hounsou) who teaches him kickboxing and submission holds.  If you didn't already guess, he also tells Jake to "Never Back Down" a lot.  Finally, once Jake's got mad martial arts skills, he goes one-on-one with Ryan in the final "Beatdown" fighting tournament.

 

So basically it's The Karate Kid Meets The O.C.

 

I've never been a UFC type of guy.  I mean it was cool when it first came out fifteen years or so ago, but now that they're on like UFC 198, it's kinda lost it's appeal for me.  Consequently, the fight scenes in the movie are nothing spectacular, but they get the job done for the most part.  I enjoyed seeing the mid-fight X-ray shots of Jake getting his ribs broke (although it was done much better in The Street Fighter) as well as the final fight that takes place in a parking lot.  (Just like in Rocky 5.)  It's all kind of bland and cliché, but I guess if you've never seen Kickboxer, Bloodsport, or Best of the Best, you'll probably think it's awesome.  It's definitely not in the same league with No Retreat, No Surrender, that's for damn sure.

 

Never Back Down isn't terrible or anything, but I'll tell you something that totally took me out of the movie.  It came when Ryan was showing Jake around his party.  They're walking around his dad's mansion and we see two hot chicks taking a bubble bath together and making out.  Pretty cool right?  Well, then the idiot Ryan says that the REAL party is outside, where we see a bunch of dudes beating the crap out of each other.  OK, let's call Time Out here, movie.  You'd expect us to believe that Jake would rather hang out with sweaty dudes that like to hold each other really tight and make them "submit" than with naked chicks licking on each other in a hot tub?  Automatic One Star deduction for that chicanery.

 

Faris really carries the movie throughout its slower moments.  (Its 110 minutes long for fuck's sake.)  He's a pretty good actor, probably a lot better than the movie deserves, and really does look like Tom Cruise a lot.  If they ever do a Straight-to-DVD sequel to Top Gun, he should play Maverick.  I think he's got what it takes; that is, if he never backs down.