Reel Shorts | Never Back Down

13 03 2008

With such a lack of originality and new ideas in Hollywood, it would seem inevitable that this phenomenon would filter into the films being released. One of the latest examples is the overly familiar mixed martial arts film, “Never Back Down.”

Featuring a ripped from the classic movie library premise, “Never Back Down” tells the story of troubled teen, Jake Tyler (Sean Faris) who relocates to sunny Orlando and soon finds himself embroiled in a rivalry with popular high school MMA champ, Ryan (Cam Gigandet). Lured to a “party” by a cute young girl, Baja (Amber Heard), unbeknown to Jake footage from a old brawl on YouTube makes him a target at his new school. After initially refusing to fight, he absorbs an embarrassing beat down and is left looking for vindication.

With Mr. Miyagi unavailable, our hero turns to Djimon Hounsou. His character, Jean Roqua, runs a MMA gym out of warehouse on the other side of town. In true, yet very predictable, mode Roqua begin the arduous process of breaking Jake down to slowly build him back up. The two engage in their best “Daniel San/Zack Mayo” moments as Roqua whips his young protege in to fighting shape. The price for all the hard work and dedication is not to use his skills outside the gym (which make it impossible for the final showdown). Unfortunately, Jake has got to do what he’s got to do and we have no recourse but to watch him play the inevitable scenes out – even if we can see the outcome coming five miles away!

“Never Back Down’s” filmmakers create the ultimate hybrid film, infusing this film with the strong foundation of “The Karate Kid” and using the competitive Richard Gere/Louis Gossett, Jr. elements from “An Officer and a Gentlemen” to complete the frame. Totally devoid of the charm, excitement and drama of the original films, what you’re left with is an updated, glorified MMA music video with lots of slow action cuts mixed with Victoria Secret and Calvin Klein models disguised as a major studio release.

Poor Hounsou, try as he might he may have the worst track record for picking films to accentuate his considerable talent. A two-time Oscar-nominated actor shouldn’t be ten football stadiums close to this type of material, but somebody has got to keep Kimora Lee Simmons happy. Rather than recommend this re-mixed “Mixed Martial Arts Kid,” my best advice would be to rent the two above-mentioned films and wait until this forgettable farce hits cable. At least then the studios wouldn’t have backed your hard earned money out of your pocket!

Grade: D

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