Never Back Down (2008)

(In theaters, April 2008) There’s something both endearing and reprehensible in the way this film re-shapes the world to justify teenage fight clubs. It’s really a plot-driven excuse to drive the protagonist to bigger and better fights, but along the way we’re asked to cheer for an entire culture of blood-thirsty teenagers constantly shouting “Fight! Fight! Fight!” and filming the results for immediate distribution on YouTube. Yes, the American indoctrination to violence begins early in Florida… and we can even recognize the sanctimonious hypocrisy of the national character when the protagonist is portrayed as a reluctant brawler who is forced, yes forced to beat up others. But who am I to complain? As a purely American martial-arts film, Never Back Down works relatively well and flows relatively well from one expected set-piece to another. It may have all the appeal of an id laid bare and hypocrisy run wild, but it’s seldom dull. Djimon Hounsou once again manages to escape from a movie mess with his dignity intact, but he’s pretty much the only one.

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