COURTESY OF SCREENRUSH.CO.UK
One of the film industry’s greatest advantages - or disadvantages, depending on how you look at it - over other art forms is its uncanny ability to apply different ideas to the exact same plot formula, virtually recreating the same movie over and over again without irking the average viewer.
The latest example of this trend is seen in “Never Back Down,” a film in which the “Karate Kid”-type relationship between young apprentice and wise old master is haphazardly married to “Fight Club.”
Jake Tyler, played by Sean Faris, is an angry teenager who takes out his frustrations on other players from his Iowa high school football team. That is, until he moves to Orlando with his mother because his younger brother receives a scholarship to an elite tennis prep school. Yes, a tennis prep school. In classic “Karate Kid” fashion, Tyler is lured into a world of glitz and glamour by pretty girl, Baja Miller (Amber Heard), and later ends up getting his ass handed to him by the resident bully. But instead of just being big and tough - or a classic martial arts master - this particular antagonist, played by Cam Gigandet, is a venerated underground mixed martial arts champion.
Lo and behold, Jake seeks out a local mixed martial arts school to prepare for the inevitable clash against said resident bully. Run by no-nonsense instructor Jean Roqua (Djimon Hounsou), the school teaches Jake to channel his rage and, in a matter of months, transforms him from undisciplined street brawler to a mixed martial arts master. After some tear-jerking confessionals about loss, pain and growing up, Jake is finally ready for a rematch at The Beat Down, an annual fight club contest in which participants receive a text message with the location the night before.
Did I mention the movie was predictable? That being said, “Never Back Down” provides a remarkably accurate look at mixed martial arts. For those interested, the film offers a highly detailed account of many of the hallmark moves and training drills of MMA, complete with chokeholds, Mui Thai kicks and the ever-lovable tire-flipping exercise. While parts are difficult to see and the fight scenes are far shorter than real-life MMA matches, the choreography remains compelling, enjoyable and incredibly well done. The actors are little more than pretty boys, but the trainers behind them clearly knew what they were doing.
As grating as the film is on the ears and mind, it is nevertheless exceptionally easy on the eyes. Like any such movie of its ilk, “Never Back Down” features scores of barely clothed women and several impossibly well-sculpted men. With the exception of the protagonist, everyone at this allegedly public Orlando high school drives a brand new car and lives in an enormous house. Really easy to relate to, isn’t it?
Concerning yet another new guy with yet another dangerous bully driving him to find his inner self, grow up and become a champion, “Never Back Down” is as predictable as they come.