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  Publicity Stills of "Never Back Down"
Courtesy of Shaw

Jeff Wadlow
Cast: Sean Faris, Amber Heard, Djimon Hounsou, Cam Gigandet. Evan Peters
RunTime: 1 hr 51 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: PG (Violence)
Official Website:

Opening Day: 19 June 2008


Set against the action-packed world of Mixed Martial Arts, NEVER BACK DOWN is the story of Jake Tyler, a tough kid who leads with his fists, and, often, with his heart. Jake Tyler, played by Sean Faris, is the new kid in town with a troubled past.. Making an attempt to fit in the new city, at the invitation of a flirtatious classmate, Baja (Amber Heard) Jake goes to a party where he is unwittingly pulled into a fight with a bully named Ryan McDonald (Cam Gigandet). While he is defeated and humiliated in the fight, a classmate introduces himself to Jake and tells him about the sport known as Mixed Marshall Arts (MMA). He sees a star in Jake and asks that he meet with his mentor, Jean Roqua, played by Djimon Hounsou (BLOOD DIAMOND, IN AMERICA). It is immediately apparent to Jake that MMA is not street fighting, but rather an art form he wants to master.. For Jake, there is much more at stake than mere victory. His decision will not just settle a score; it will define who he is.

Movie Review:

“Never Back Down” has its hands plunked in so much recent nostalgia that it forgets what to do with its brains. It’s exactly what you thought a film with a generic title like this would entail. There’s a place for movies like this – witless, ambitionless, shameless – as mere fodder in cineplexes, but that doesn’t mean it should whittle down the distraction value to just delivering an audiovisual assault of shiny bare-chested Abercrombie & Fitch models, toothy grins and music video jump cuts to beat audiences into mindless submission. It’s no ringing endorsement but “Never Back Down” fills a deplorably oversaturated niche quite fittingly.

“The Karate Kid” by way of “Fight Club” by way of “The O.C.”, and that still doesn’t include its YouTube aspirations of high school brutality. But self-reflexive stupidity is still stupid. Corn-fed Iowa boy Jake Tyler (Sean Faris) moves to Orlando, Florida, with his tennis prodigy younger brother Wyatt to start fresh after a car crash killed their father. Instead of flipping off tourists at Disney World, the troubled Jake gets involved with wealthy young classmates who pummel other classmates unconscious for shits and giggles, all in the name of Mixed Martial Arts and honour. It all makes for a mechanical buildup to its final confrontation with his eventual nemesis Ryan (Cam Gigandet), the schoolyard bully and quite predictably the best fighter of the lot. And like hot fudge over its vanilla performances from its leads, two-time Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou provides a supporting role by slumming it big time and being a class or two above the rest in his Mr. Miyagi archetype of molding young Jake into a fighter and being a surrogate daddy in the process. Even if “Never Back Down” was remotely entertaining, it’s a role wholly beneath him.

With oodles of homoerotic tension, the young men lock limbs while playing its obvious allusions for puerile laughs while teen lesbianism gets the once over. It practically runs through a checklist of pulp juvenilia, mostly too embedded in its DNA for it to become either remotely amusing or even transgressive, instead it turns teenage hostility into an unadulterated sport, not so much for its aerobic benefits as it is for the ability to inflict as much pain to fellow classmates as possible. Brought to kids by men with the minds of kids, the film’s rote message of confronting personal demons and pent-up anger through fisticuffs becomes disturbingly regressive in light of high-school violence taking front and centre for many a nerd.

Movie Rating:

(“Never Back Down” fills a deplorably oversaturated niche quite fittingly)

Review by Justin Deimen


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