Thursday, September 3, 2009

Catching Up on DVD: 'Fighting'

By Chase Kahn

I had heard some rumblings that Dito Montiel's Fighting, when it came out and died in theaters in April and is now out on DVD as of last week, actually wasn't that bad.

The street-fighting vehicle about a former wrestler-turned-street peddler (Channing Tatum) who finds his way out when he meets a two-bit scam artist (Terrence Howard) who turns him into a valuable property fighting for cash is a cookie-cutter molded bore. I guess "not bad" could be used to describe Fighting to some degree -- the performances don't absolutely suck, it does have a 'mild' New York vibe to it and interesting fight scenes/choreography -- but it's a spoon-fed comfort film cliche complete with carboard heroes, villains and telegraphed predictability.

It's like one of those urban dance movies for guys, just replace the dance-offs with bare-knuckle brawls. The protaganist is down on their luck, estranged from their parents, meets a mentor/father figure, meets member of opposite sex, etc. etc. Those who have lauded the film for at least having this palpable New York City back-alley vibe need to think again. In this "city" that Shawn McArthur (Tatum) lives in, everybody knows everyone and you can sleep on a bench in the middle of a slum only to wake with the sunshine splashing your face. Filming Asian-owned pawn shops with chipped paint railing and faded street signs hardly makes the experience any more believable.

You just can't film one of these coming-of-age, living-on-the-streets, rough-and-tough kind of things and have this reassuring, "everything is going to be okay" vibe running through it. It's completely obvious from the first frame what the outcome is going to be and we never buy into Shawn's predicament or his fights, which play out like a retrospective of Rocky opponents. Shawn fights, in sequential order: a Russian guy, a big black guy, an Asian and finally, a familiar face from his old wrestling team! See what I mean by cardboard cut-outs?

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