This Film Has No Punch

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Friday, March 14, 2008

"Never Back Down" is teensploitation at its most obvious -- a boneheaded cliche-rama built around six-pack-ab standoffs between preening studs.

A movie that wants to copy the box-office success and appeal of "Save the Last Dance" and "Fight Club," it stars Tom Cruise-clone Sean Faris as Jake Tyler, the cliched Edgy Outsider, with the usual family issues at home, who moves to a new school and has to break into a social circle with his fists. The competitive sport du jour is mixed martial arts, in which kicking feet are part of the oh-so-choreographed backstreet duke-outs. After picking up pointers in this new contact sport, Jake sets himself up for a tourney finale with ultimate bad boy Ryan McCarthy (Cam Gigandet), which leads all but directly to winning the heart of the bodacious Baja (Amber Heard).

Sitting through this is groan-inducing enough, but it's spiritually depressing to watch Djimon Hounsou, who deserves better, as Jake's ripped pugilist guru, counseling the lad with fortune cookie wisdom. This is also the kind of "plugged in" movie in which the characters become instantly famous when their battles are broadcast over the Internet, and are summoned to fights at the last minute by text messages. Well, read this message: OMG DNT GO!

-- Desson Thomson

Never Back Down PG-13, 110 minutes Contains stylized violence, sexual content, profanity and teen alcohol consumption. Area theaters. Never Back Down PG-13, 110 minutes Contains stylized violence, sexual content, profanity and teen alcohol consumption. Area theaters.


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