It’s Teenage Fight Club… No, wait, it’s Karate Kid 23… No, it’s Never Back Down that wants to be a fusion of the two films with a cast that looks like it came out of a show on the CW (actually three of the principal stars do have CW/WB shows in their background, even if it’s only guest spots).
First off, I have to say I was completely entertained by this unintentionally amusing film. Why is it funny? There is something so completely insane about the circumstance: Jake, the new kid in town, is goaded into a fight club scene by a Brad Pitt wannabee. How is he goaded? Being reminded of his father who died in a drunk driving crash that Jake could’ve prevented. So, of course, Jake has anger issues and can easily be goaded. Except, every time he’s goaded, he almost walks away… only to turn around and go for the beating instead. It’s also funny that this fight club is allowed to exist. People turn up beaten at school, no one does anything. Fights are filmed and streamed over YouTube, no one takes action. I suppose this really happens somewhere in our dysfunctional country, but you’d like to believe someone in the school or in law enforcement might step up to put a stop to it.
So that’s the Fight Club portion of the film. There’s also the Karate Kid part with two-time Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou cast in the Mr. Miyagi role (how did Hounsou end up slumming in this film?). He trains Jake to help him fight better, but to also deal with his inner demons so that he’s always in control of the situation. Of course, the teacher has issues too, so they end up helping each other. Of course, with the Karate Kid aspect, the film has a feel good tilt to it too.
As I said, I was entertained, far more so than by 10,000 B.C. For a movie that seems like it would be more at home on cable channel Spike than on the big screen, Never Back Down was a great distraction on a cold-ish afternoon.