Did you hear the teenage fight flick ‘Never Back Down’ crying out for a sequel? I sure didn’t, but ever since I got a copy of ‘Honey 2’ delivered to my door, I realize that the powers that be will sequelize anything. But this sequel has a few things that piqued my interest. Well, actually it has one thing that piqued my interest and that’s the fact that these powers that be allowed Michael Jai White to direct this movie. Makes sense right? I mean he knows how to kick some ass, he’s been in as many fight movies as just about anybody and he’s arguably the best muscle bound actor ever… so why the hell not. So as it turns out, we were entertained by ‘Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown’, probably more so than the first one as this one was less derivative than that unabashed copy of every fight movie ever made, but this was a strange movie if you give it more than a moment’s thought… which I don’t ever recommend.
Mike (Dean Geyer) is a college freshman with some issues, largely centered on his dad who he is not getting along with at all. Mike confided with his roommate why this is, with the caveat being that this roommate ‘not tell a soul’, but the roommate heard ‘tell everybody you know’. Now Mike and his anger management issues are kicked off the wrestling team and he is sad.
Zack (Alex Meraz) is a talented boxer and the love of all the ladies he meets. Unfortunately the only affection his last opponent showed him was having his fists make passionate love to Zack’s face, and one detached retina later, Zack’s boxing career is tragically cut short. Zack is sad.
Justin (Scottie Epstein) works in a comic book store, dresses in black and doesn’t comb his hair. In a two minute span Justin is called a Dork by a girl he had just tried to ask out, and recognize that this girl was pretty damned dorky herself, and he got beat up and slashed by some neighborhood thugs. Justin is sad.
Then there’s Tim (Todd Duffie). A mountain of a dude who looks damn near invincible. Think Brock Lesnar, only without Brock’s acting ability. Tim is sad because his mom has taken to working in a strip club to make ends meet. Tim probably has the least reason out of all four to be sad, we think.
What brings these four together is a little underground fighting event called The Beatdown, hosted by pubescent Don King hopeful Max (Evan Peters), with a ten thousand dollar grand prize up for grabs. And if these cats are going to be entered in The Beatdown, they need to learn some MMA action which introduces them to their future sensei, former MMA superhero Case Walker (Michael Jai White). Think of Case as a Mr. Miyagi type, that is if Mr. Miyagi was a real big Black dude with a real bad attitude, a prison record, and his version of ‘wax on, wax off’ was his students punching each other in the face real hard. Otherwise he’s just like Mr. Miyagi.
There’s some other stuff going on like some insanely racist cops floating about giving Case a hard time, there’s a worthless romance side angle featuring Mike lusting over Zack the Player’s girlfriend Eve the Virgin (Jillian Murray), and Justin the geek goes completely nuts. But it’s a fight movie and it has to come down to the big battle with good versus evil with all the marbles on the line. Kind of. Not really. This is where the movie gets a little strange.
At its core, ‘Never Back Down 2’ is a solid fight flick. Our cast, probably cast largely because they all look good shirtless and are athletic enough to sell us on the fight sequences, as opposed to their raw acting ability, were more than adequate for what they had to do. Mr. White has clearly been in enough of these types of movies that he has taken notes on what people who watch these types of movies like to see. That being well presented, reasonably realistic fight sequences… and titties. There was no gratuitous nudity in the first film, and the nudity in this one was most certainly gratuitous, but Director White rectified that egregious oversight.
The narrative though, that’s anything that doesn’t involve people getting punched in the face… I don’t know. The eventual bad guy, as given away in the films opening scene, is Justin the Geek. They probably should’ve gone in another direction there. This character was picked on, abused, rejected by nerdy chicks, learned how to fight, felt good about himself, and then they just made him go psycho. Message being that if you’re a loser and you get picked on, then it would be in your best interest to stay that way, otherwise you’ll go nuts and we’ll just have to kick your ass. I wasn’t vibing with that particular plot device. Then there’s Case and his parole issues, because Case is real paranoid about doing anything that’s going to put him in a bad spot that might get him sent back to jail. This explains why he’s training these kids to be in this illegal underground fight, and even shows up at the illegal underground fight. Being broadcast live on the Internet. At his dojo. Makes sense to me. The whole Eve the Virgin and the struggle between the two fighters over her love had almost negative value in regards to this movie, but out of that sprung a couple of gratuitous nudity opportunities, opportunities we would’ve otherwise missed and we sure as hell can’t have that. Besides, there’s lot of gratuitous muscular, shirtless sweaty dudes doing pull-ups and stuff for the ladies and the gay dudes out there, so everybody can leave happy.
But the bottom-line is that we were entertained by ‘Never Back Down 2’, and if nothing else Michael Jai White has proven he can competently craft the same kind of movie he’s been acting in for the last fifteen or so years. Maybe a new action director is upon us.