Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

So I’m sitting on the toilet reading this month’s Maxim Magazine. Is that too much information? Perhaps. Why I get Maxim I don’t know but for some reason they send it to me for free and I’ve even gone so far as to ask them to stop sending it but apparently Maxim hates freedom and every month it comes like clockwork. It’s almost gotten to the point that I am almost looking forward to the opportunity of skipping over its worthless articles and looking at yet another tired pictorial of Jennifer Love Hewitt or Carmen Electra. However this particular issue had a picture of the female lead in this movie ‘Fighting’ Zulay Henao which stood out, aside from the fact that the girl is a stone cold fox (love the 70’s), but because she’s a woman of some color which is rare for the pages of Maxim, and also rare in that it wasn’t another picture of Jennifer Love Hewitt. So instead of blowing off my screening notice for ‘Fighting’ which I have been doing way too much of lately, I decided to trek on down and check it out. Was it worth it? Well…

Shawn MacArthur (Channing Tatum) is a two bit hustler heralding from Alabama way and is shilling Harry Potter knockoffs on some street in New York City when he is quite rudely asked to leave this corner by some other two bit hustlers. Shawn drops one these hustlers with a straight right which has caught the attention of the old-time hustler guiding young these hustlers Harvey Boarden (Terrence Howard). Later on Harvey runs into Shawn and informs him that he knows of a way to use his prodigious fighting skills, skills he’s observed this dude possessing on the strength of throwing one punch, into making some fast cash.

Since Shawn has absolutely nothing going on in his life he’s down for some of that action which culminates in him partaking in one of those underground fights, and the next thing you know the boy is on the fast track to bare knuckle brawling success. Along the way he also meets a pretty girl in the afore mention Ms. Henao playing a single mother / waitress named Zulay. Apparently the director wanted to make sure when they called her name the woman would respond.

So Shawn is fighting and getting paid a stupid amount of money, but he has a dark secret dragging behind him which shows up in his former Alabama homey, and current street fighting king of the hill Evan Haley (Brian White) with the pair obviously having a very checkered and volatile past. Harvey too has a checkered past as he is given next to no respect by his far superior street level colleagues Martinez (Jose Guzman) and Dancing (Roger Guenveur Smith), who are sitting idly by waiting for Harvey to screw this cash cow up just like he’s screwed everything else up.

This eventual screw up may or may not happen because the big fight is now on as Shawn faces his sworn enemy Evan with the winner taking 100 large and loser going home with his pocket empty, but there is also something else going on in this fight that is not quite on the up an up which has our hero battling his inner demons. Will the boy do the right thing or will he do the sensible thing since both options are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Directed by Dito Montiel ‘Fighting’ is essentially a paint by numbers drama that offers very little that you haven’t seen before in other, better presented movies. Plus for a movie calling itself ‘Fighting’ there really wasn’t a whole of fighting going on, no matter what the trailer might want you to think. I suppose the title could represent a double entendre in displaying our main characters internal psychological fight in addition to his external battles, but whatever.

Now the movie isn’t a terrible one by any stretch and it does manage to be somewhat watchable and even entertaining at times, but it does have some issues which it has trouble overcoming. First and foremost would be that leading man Channing Tatum just isn’t much of an actor. It does seem that the filmmakers did attempt to cater the role of Shawn Macarthur to Tatum’s limited range and they were successful to an extent as his performance didn’t sink the movie, but he lacks the charisma to elevate the film the way that other actors have managed to electrify other fighting movies. Brad Pitt in ‘Fight Club’ comes to by mind in an admittedly completely unfair example. Brian White on the other hand has charisma to burn as the heavy in this flick, but it’s not his movie and I’m also not quite sure what angle T. Howard was taking with his character. It was off putting at first but eventually I guess I adjusted to the character and it became less distracting.

Another thing that was odd was figuring out exactly how the fight game worked in this movie. First fight 5g, next fight 10g, up until 100 large for the fourth fight. Talk about the fast track, especially considering how those first two fights turned out. I also never did fully understand why the characters of Shawn and Evan hated each other outside of the fact they got into a fight in high school. Freshman year no less. Also left wide open was the character of Harvey and whatever it was that happened to cause him to fall out of favor with his former street hustling partners, and then we question why Shawn was loyal to Harvey who as far as I could tell was only looking out for number one from the get go.

I’m probably putting too much into this movie because the audience around me seemed to like it just fine, and what I saw as woefully predictable, a large number of them seemed genuinely surprised by some of the revelations and resolutions. Jaded movie viewer over here. And even though Channing Tatum can’t really act he got to have fake sex with Zulay Haneo during the day and then he went home to have real sex with his fiancée Jenna Dewan later that night. I’m thinking that beats the ability to act any day of the week. Anyway, despite the fact they should’ve called this movie ‘Melodrama’ instead of ‘Fighting’, the few fight scenes it did have were pretty good, the movie had a nice gritty look to it and it did have its entertaining moments. If you can over come the sketchy characters and gaping plot holes I’m thinking you might have a good time with it.

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