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Never Back Down


Stars: Sean Faris, Cam Gigandet, Amber Heard, Leslie Hope, Djimon Hounsou, Evan Peters, Wyatt Smith, Affion Crockett, Neil Brown Jr, Lauren Leech, David Zelon

Director: Jeff Wadlow

Standard situations and dialogue gems like “I don’t want to be angry any more” and “Doing nothing has consequences too”, makes it pretty clear that this seen-it-all-before saga of bullied high schooler Faris (think a taller Tom Cruise) who finally avenges himself on his ruthless oppressor Gigandet proudly boasts just about every cliche you could expect. There’s Faris’ need to come to terms with the death of his father and with having been relocated with his mother and younger brother to Florida. There’s the duplicitous dame (Heard) who eventually switches allegiance from villain to hero and there’s the funny sidekick (Evans). And, in the best tradition of The Karate Kid (the film is like the illegitimate offspring of that film and Fight Club), there’s Faris’ wise MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) mentor Hounsou, always ready to offer a well-honed aphorism for every situation but with troubles of his own.

The story is familiar enough and the performances workmanlike at best (but then Chris Hauty’s soggy screenplay doesn’t deserve anything more than average acting), so what’s left?

Simply a load of brawls in which the anything-and-everything-goes, mano a mano action (apart from eye gouging, you’ll be relieved to hear) is stunningly staged and edited (Victor Du Bois, Debra Weinfeld) for maximum visceral effect. If only the preview cinema had been equipped with a fast-forward button. But since producer David Zelon (who also plays Faris' father in flashbacks) “trained in the Krav Maga Israeli arts system for two years”, I don’t think I’ll say anything more.

Alan Frank

USA 2008. UK Distributor: Momentum Pictures. Colour.
113 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 02 Apr 2008