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Never Back Down (2008)



Average Rating: 4.4/10
Reviews Counted: 86
Fresh: 19 | Rotten: 67

Though not without its pleasures, Never Back Down faithfully adheres to every imaginable fight movie cliché.


Average Rating: 4.4/10
Critic Reviews: 25
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 20

Though not without its pleasures, Never Back Down faithfully adheres to every imaginable fight movie cliché.



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Average Rating: 2.9/5
User Ratings: 608,721

My Rating

Movie Info

Jake Tyler is a tough kid who leads with his fists, and often, with his heart. He is the new kid in town with a troubled past. He has recently moved to Orlando, Fla., with his family who has relocated to support his younger brother's shot at a professional tennis career. Jake was a star athlete on the football team at home, but in this new city he is an outsider with a reputation for being a quick tempered brawler. Making an attempt to fit in, at the invitation of a flirtatious classmate, Baja,


Action & Adventure

Chris Hauty

Jul 29, 2008


Summit Entertainment - Official Site External Icon

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June 2, 2008:
2008 MTV Movie Awards Winners
Forget to tune into the 17th annual MTV Movie Awards last night? No problem -- here's a list of the...
May 14, 2008:
Hauty, Wadlow, and Baumgarten Are The Eternals
The Never Back Down creative team -- writer Chris Hauty, director Jeff Wadlow, and producer Craig...


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All Critics (89) | Top Critics (26) | Fresh (19) | Rotten (67) | DVD (5)

Movie is dopey. And with its emphasis on stupid violence, xylophone abs, and getting yourself on YouTube, it's yet another product that makes you feel bad about today's youth culture.

March 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Entertainment Weekly | Comment (1)
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic IconTop Critic

I laughed so much at the litany of clichés that I finally had to admit I was entertained from start to finish by this cheesy knock-off.

March 17, 2008 | Comments (3)
Ebert & Roeper
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's a little Karate Kid, a smidge of Fight Club...a lot of The O.C. (evil boy Gigandet played an evil boy on that series), and presto: probable hit.

March 14, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The eternal battle between the hot-but-arrogant blond and the hot-and-likable brunet continues on new turf in the almost gleefully bad Never Back Down.

March 14, 2008 Full Review Source: Time Out New York
Time Out New York
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Towering above all is Hounsou, whose performance grants Never Back Down a measure of dignity.

March 14, 2008 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The fights are parceled out at intervals during the last half, all leading to a climactic battle. But it's hard to build suspense when you know it is coming and you know who will win.

March 14, 2008 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle | Comment (1)
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Bloody fight film has heart, but it's no champion.

December 31, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

A naive and truly obnoxious movie about the world of Mixed Martial Arts.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Guardian

While the character of Jake isn't an emotionally taxing one, Faris has his moments, especially in a low-key scene in which he attempts to explain why his character is full of rage.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

Here's what I hoped for: someone to root for, someone to root against, an inspiring coach, some eye candy and, of course, training montages. I got what I wanted.

August 27, 2008 Full Review Source: The Scorecard Review | Comments (3)
The Scorecard Review

A sort of teenage Fight Club, complete with daddy issues, Never Back Down is a slight refinement of the sort of picture that was ascendant in the '80s... [Blu-Ray]

August 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Groucho Reviews | Comment (1)
Groucho Reviews

A generic, violent underdog story that pays a lot of lip service to non-violence when its characters aren't busy kicking and punching the tar out of each other.

July 23, 2008 Full Review Source: Screen International
Screen International

People that actually think the trailer looks cool will probably like the movie enough and it does have some cool fights, I just couldn't get past the fact that the movie gave you no one to root for.

June 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Sin Magazine
Sin Magazine

While both [this movie and "Karate Kid"] are unintentionally hilarious, the difference is no one will remember "Never Back Down" in two weeks, let alone 20 years.

June 11, 2008
The Trend

The acting is hammy, Djimon Hounsou shows up to give the flick a corny air of Karate Kid and there's nothing particularly original about the whole premise but somehow it works. It must be those abs. Or the kicks to them.

April 15, 2008 Full Review Source: Peterborough This Week

Come back Mr Miyagi, all is forgiven.

April 8, 2008 Full Review Source:

A cliché-ridden guilty pleasure.

April 4, 2008 Full Review Source: IGN Movies UK
IGN Movies UK

The Karate Kid meets Fight Club but it's no way near as good as it sounds.

April 4, 2008 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Enjoyably trashy teen flick that plays like a dumbed-down version of Fight Club, enlivened by an engaging lead performance by star-in-the-making Sean Faris.

April 3, 2008 Full Review Source: ViewLondon

The result is an entertaining roller coaster of emotions and actions, with Djimon Hounsou bringing dignity and meaning to his role as Jean, the martial arts coach with his own demons to conquer

March 28, 2008 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile | Comments (3)
Urban Cinefile

Jeff Wadlow's direction is disorderly.

March 25, 2008 Full Review Source: Sacramento News & Review
Sacramento News & Review

If you think about what this film is saying, the superficiality is overwhelming.

March 25, 2008 Full Review Source: Shadows on the Wall
Shadows on the Wall

Even for the trashy sub-genre it belongs to, "Never Back Down" is sadly just lazy action pablum as will the five Straight to DVD sequels be. I'll just stick to "Karate Kid"...

March 23, 2008 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

Amid all this conventional-plotty mishmash, it's not a newsflash that the role of Jean, the tireless, morally upright and vaguely spiritual mentor, is especially grating.

March 21, 2008 Full Review Source: PopMatters

A cross between "The Karate Kid" and "Fight Club," though without the A-list cast. That's right, the A-list cast. When compared to the D-listers assembled in "Back Down," Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio might as well be A-list.

March 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Bangor Daily News (Maine)
Bangor Daily News (Maine)

Audience Reviews for Never Back Down

November 29, 2013
Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

It delivers a serious beatdown. It`s The Karate Kid for a new generation of martial arts fans. A wickedly cool and tremendosuly entertaining action-packed movie with a great cast and a great soundtrack. A knockout. Djimon Hounsou gives a powerful and thunderous performance.
September 18, 2011

Super Reviewer

Often stiff, dull, and bland, NEVER BACK DOWN is no ROCKY. Sure, it's a sports movie that's pretty much all about getting revenge, but besides the fighting, there's really nothing much to it. Also, the soundtrack has some good songs on it, but then again, for a sports film, music is absolutely irrelevant. The acting here really disappoints, can think of my further explanation from there, as acting is always bad in the same way. I just saw that they made a sequel to this, and I have two things to say to that: 1. wow and 2. I'm glad it is a "direct-to-video" release rather than a theatrical release.
September 11, 2011

Super Reviewer

Win or Lose... Everyone Has Their Fight

Saw it again! Very Nice! Great fights with very good moves you don't see often in movies and you could learn some moves from this film. Djimon Hounsou as usual sweating like crazy but he did good as supporting actor. Nice young cast, Cam Gigandet has the exact same body I want, we'll see..

Jake Tyler (Sean Faris) helps his high-school football team win an important game. A frustrated player from the opposing team makes taunts about Jake's father, who died while driving drunk. Infamously-hot-tempered Jake starts a brawl with the opposing player. Spectators capture the brawl with mobile phones and video-cameras. Soon, the brawl is uploaded to YouTube.

Jake gets thrown off the team for brawling, but takes it in stride because he is leaving this school anyway. He and his younger brother Charlie (Wyatt Henry Smith) are moving with their widowed mom to Orlando, Florida where Charlie has received a tennis scholarship. The Tyler brothers are close despite Jake's penchant for fighting and getting into trouble, which greatly upsets their mom (Leslie Hope).

At his new school, Jake has a hard time fitting in. He catches the eye of Baja Miller (Amber Heard), a pretty classmate who flirts with him. Later, Jake notices fellow student Max Cooperman (Evan Peters) getting beaten up on campus. Jake rushes to Max's aid, only to discover that the "bullying" he disrupted was actually a street-kickboxing match. Everybody present, including Max, demands that the astonished Jake leave.

At school the next day, Max lets it be known that there are videos on the internet of Jake's football brawl, which has gained him a positive reputation on campus. Max invites Jake to come and learn mixed martial arts with his instructor, while Baja invites Jake to a party at her boyfriend Ryan McCarthy's mansion. Jake declines the former offer but accepts the latter. At McCarthy Manor that night, host Ryan (Cam Gigandet) - having seen the internet footage - challenges Jake to demonstrate his brawling prowess in a fight against...Ryan himself. When Jake refuses the challenge, letting Ryan know that Jake came to the party only because Baja invited him. Ryan kisses Baja in front of Jake to verify whose girlfriend she is. Jake realizes that he's being set up, and attempts to leave - until Ryan makes taunts about the disgraceful death of Jake's dad. An angry Jake accepts the challenge but is brutally defeated by Ryan. Baja appears disgusted with Ryan for continually beating on Jake, despite the fact that Jake was obviously down and out.

A day later, Max comes to Jake's house, and repeats the invitation to come and learn Mixed Martial Arts from Max's instructor, Jean Roqua (Djimon Hounsou). This time, Jake accepts. He meets Max at Roqua's gym and is introduced to Roqua himself. Roqua briefly interviews Jake...who, he senses, is there for the wrong reasons. Nonetheless, Roqua allows Jake to train with him - both in class, and personally before classes - on the condition that Jake does not fight anybody for any reason outside the gym. Jake notices that Roqua apparently lives in the gym.

The night after Jake's first training session, Baja comes over to his house to apologize for setting him up at the party. Jake quickly retorts after Baja tells him about her school life, saying "Does that mean I'm meant to feel sorry for you because you're popular?" The next day, Baja confronts Ryan and breaks up with him on account that he beat Jake up. In his anger, he grabs Baja's arm and refuses to let go, even after she pleads. Jake appears and attempts to stop it, only to which Ryan insults his late father, saying "You're your old man...was". This insult has a negative impact on Jake's training that afternoon. At the gym, he is too aggressive, and, Roqua, sensing this, tells him to go home to cool off. Max gives Jake a ride in his Ford Mustang. At a set of lights, three guys in a yellow Hummer relentlessly and annoyingly beep their horn at Max. Jake, still angry from Ryan's insult, and spurred on by the repetitive horn, goes out to confront the three guys. He beats them all up on the street, and the footage is filmed by Max, and uploaded and spread throughout the internet. This further improves his social profile within the school, now being the second-most popular boy after Ryan.

The next training session, and unfortunately for Jake, Roqua sees that Jake has wounds on his knuckles which could have only come from fighting against his rules and banishes Jake from the gym. When Roqua goes grocery shopping, Jake confronts him and admits that Roqua was right: he signed up to train for the wrong reasons. Jake also tells Roqua the late Mr. Tyler's story; evidently, Jake feels that his mother blames him for her husband's demise. Roqua then tells his story: he had an younger brother, who was an excellent mixed-martial artist. One day in a bar, a local bully mouthed off at young Joseph, who was about to fight the bully himself. His brother won the brawl, only to be shot and killed by the bully's friends. Jean's father blames him for permitting the situation to escalate into violence which could have been avoided. Jean left home over that; he has not seen his father, or even set foot in Brazil, for the past seven years.

Jake declines to enter The Beatdown. When Ryan discovers this turn of events he invites Max to McCarthy Manor on false pretenses. There Ryan engages Max in combat and beats him brutally. Fearing for his friends' safety, Jake reverses his decision and enters The Beatdown after all - only to face Ryan. Roqua hears of this as well, and confronts Jake with an ultimatum: Jake will never be allowed near the gym again if he even goes to The Beatdown, much less fights in it. Jake - realizing that Roqua is trying to prevent him from making the same mistake which Roqua himself made with his own father - answers that Roqua's only mistake was not doing what Jake himself is about to do. Said mistake wasn't brawling; it was evading the conflict at hand, rather than confronting and resolving it.

At The Beatdown, both Jake and Ryan reach the semi-finals. Then Ryan is disqualified for eye-gouging. In view of this, Jake taps out one second into his semi-final bout (because his purpose for entering The Beatdown to begin with is no longer present). Outside the club, Ryan attacks Jake and they have a spectacular brawl in the club parking lot. Ultimately Jake wins the fight. (In the 2 Disc and Blu Ray versions, there is a deleted scene where Ryan tries to challenge Jake to a rematch.) Jake replies to this by bringing to light the fact the fans are chanting for the rematch unsatified with the fight they just saw, and subsequently they want to watch just simply two guys "kill" each other and do not care about the sport itself. This would cause Ryan to realize he had basically been a puppet to gladitorial combat for the amusment of others and not the one on top and in control he thought he was. Angered and embarrassed he yells at the crowd and runs off.

Jake has won the respect of all his fellow students, up to and including Ryan. For the first time in a long while, Roqua closes the gym and goes to visit his family in Brazil.
August 5, 2011
Manu Gino

Super Reviewer

    1. Ryan McCarthy: Step in or back the hell out.
    – Submitted by Justin R (20 months ago)
    1. Ryan McCarthy: Well, we gotta give the people what they want.
    – Submitted by Jd H (2 years ago)
    1. Ryan McCarthy: Its got to end with you looking like a bitch.
    – Submitted by Richard L (2 years ago)
    1. Ryan McCarthy: If you gonna be the best, you have to take out the best.
    – Submitted by Carlos V (3 years ago)
    1. Jake Tyler: This is my fight. Everyone's got one.
    – Submitted by Anish S (3 years ago)
    1. Jean Roqua: Never give up, never back down!
    – Submitted by rob g (3 years ago)
View all quotes (7)

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