Monday, April 27, 2009


Channing Tatum plays Shawn MacArthur, a nobody who turns himself into a somebody with his firsts and street fighting skills. He does not even train and he still wins most of his fights. Inexplicably, training never seems to cross Shawn's mind. He would rather chase Zulay Henao who plays Zulay Valez. I do not blame him too much for this but it would be a little more credible if he decided to jump some rope like Rocky.

I like any movie with Terrence Howard in it. This is a step down from the titan Iron Man movie but his presence still provides a certain buoyancy to a film. A movie can only sink so low with him in it. In this movie, he is, from his own mouth, a two bit hustler named Harvey Boarden. Harvey tries to steal some money from Shawn while Shawn is trying to sell some fake items. He is trying to sell a rip off Harry Potter book for instance. Everything is $20 and it seems like most people are trying to rip him off when at first it seemed like that was his intention.

The story unfolds when it is explained that Shawn is from Alabama and apparently he came to New York City to be poor and practically homeless. This does not make a lot of sense but apparently he does not like his dad much. Harvey has his boys rob Shawn but Shawn puts on a show and while he does lose some money he dishes out some haymakers on these loser antagonists. They later become Shawn's posse as Shawn wins fights. Harvey seems to know some people on the under ground fight scene in NYC and this is how it all starts. The first fight pays $5000 and this is more than enough to entice Shawn who is broke, without a future.

Shawn pretty much gets pummeled in the fight against, to me, is a European fighter, perhaps French. Shawn wins by slamming this champ into a porcelain drinking fountain which lays this guy out cold.

His second fight is against a huge black bruiser, this is street fighting though, there is not a weight class. Shawn can box though and is punching this down and the fight goes into a nearby conveinence store and then gun shots are heard. Harvey saves the day, grabs the gun, and Shawn and the rest of the crew escape unscathed in their SUV. I am not sure if this was a set up or the store owner's daughter did not want their store to be ramshackled. I do not blame her for that. But he or she should have locked the back door so the fight could not spill into the store.

Harvey has some competition in the Shawn sweepstakes. The name no one recognizes but that ugly face that has been in and out of movies for about 20 years is in this one. He has been in War and so many other movies. Luis Guzmán plays Martinez who is also involved in the fight scene, seems to own a club, and is a little more established in the fight and underground circles than Harvey. But Harvey found Shawn first and pursued him. Harvey and Shawn were made for each other but this story is not epic nor that powerful. This movie is not better than last year's Never Back Down because that movie had fresher faces and a hotter female.

Shawn does not like his father since they broke apart in an ugly incident in Alabama. One of them punched other out in front of the public and it was a press spectable. One of Shawn's teammates, black guy named Brian J. White who goes by the name Evan Hailey in this fight movie sticks around on the kickboxing team and wins a championship with his father. Shawn quits and runs away from the state. Not a pretty scene, it did not end well for Shawn and apparently his father made some mistakes as well.

Shawn then fights a Asian assassin, kick boxing maestro who, like the first fighter Shawn faced, is much quicker than Shawn and seems to have done something before the fight that seems like a novel approach for the main character: practice. This fight occurs in a rich hotel lobby with Martinez present talking trash to Harvey. Martinez is popping off statements like, "you do not belong in a place like this." Harvey is nervous, which is normal, and just tones up, sucks it up, and Shawn proves again he can some punches and kicks. This Asian fighter is fast and is just pounding Shawn and almost knocks him out with a round house kick that Shaw blocks with his fists. But this probably only absorbs about 15% of the blow but it is enough. Shawn gets tangled up in this fighter's legs and is close to getting choked out but Shawn, using his leverage and leg strength, picks his aggressive opponent up and slams his back to the ground. I am sure this knocks the wind out of this Asian beast and Shawn quickly takes the upper hand and puts this guy into a sleeper hold. He holds him until he is unconscious. Shawn is extremely winded after this and his posse picks him and informs him that he won. Harvey is vindicated, Martinez is inherently pissed. But the big boys on the scene admit that Harvey is representing a winner.

Evan is the next fighter. By now, Shawn has some spending money and buys some sweet presents for Zulay. She has a child, this would be enough to turn away me but Shawn is still entranced by her. The web becomes tangled when it becomes clear that Harvey knows Zulay. I am not sure in what capacity. This movie is a story of how small this world can me. Evan and Shawn have deep history and both end up in NYC and it seems like where ever they go, they seem to run into each other and have unkind words and expressions for each other.

Evan and Shawn are paired up to fight. This is logical since this movie is not that original and it can not spread out forever. Atleast they have Shawn training a little bit. He is riding the subway late at night and he decides to use this opportunity to practice his fighting skills. He uses the pull in the subway car to separate his punches. Good for the writers, the movie becomes a little more believable.

Shawn is a tough fighter. Hard to believe he quit fighting with skills and tenacity such as his. But fighting is strange and has a character of its own. The first fighter had the better of him until Shawn slammed him into the drinking fountain. But Shawn seemed to understand better than all his opponents, their is not too many rules. Shawn used gravity, the hard ground, and his surroundings to his advantage.

The movie tosses in some cool and entertaining music. Only one real cutey and she is no where near Amber Heard from Never Back Down. The latter was better since it showed the training and hard work that this sport demands.

Evan is a jerk, almost the jerk Cam Gigandet is in Never Back Down. Harvey wants Shawn to throw the fight at the end. He does not believe Shawn can win and he decides to take the safe way out. He wants Harvey to throw the fight, allow Evan to win after several minutes of intense battling. This fight is going for $100,000, winner takes all. Street fighting, no gloves, bare knuckles are all of these fights. That is brutal which limits the duration of these fights. No 12 round brawls here. Shawn secretly has Zulay put the money on him. Yes, Harvey uses Zulay as the money currier. The promoters talk their usual trash to anyone associated with Harvey. Shawn wins, in a fight not even as intense or nerve racking as when he fought the Asian kick boxer or the lethal French fighter for his first NYC street bout. It was suspensful, Shawn was slammed against a window several times and this fight again, which is realistic, went from the designated outside roof top back inside to the top floor restaurant. Evan is knocked out, Shawn gets up and his posse is laughing it up. Martinez informs Harvey is a dead man. Martinez also put money through Harvey that Shawn will blow the fight. $250,000. The mafia also did the same. Harvey knows he is a marked man. But he still glad his boy won.

Unbeknownst to Harvey, Shawn took that $500,000 and put it on him. He returns to Harvey with $1 million in cash. In the beginning, Harvey says something about opening up an Ihop or wishing too. He is from Chicago, but he chose to run off to NYC. I am not sure how much Shawn kept, but not only is Harvey happy that is gets to live, he just become a modestly wealthy American. Especially in this market. They drive off to Alabama, then perhaps to Chicago. Harvey comes, leaving his posse behind to enjoy their winnings as well. Zulay, Shawn, and Harvey, drive off in their unappealing vehicle leaving the big apple behind.

The title of this movie is unimpressive. This movie had some slow parts, in between the fighting and Terrance and Shawn dialogue. I was not following Zulay that much, her relationship with Shawn has been done before so many times. This movie is does not have too many original ideas. But there were some comical scenes. The movie was OK. I guess it only takes 2.5 wins to reach a mega fight in the under ground of NYC.

I allocate this movie two stars.**

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