Never Back Down - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Never Back Down Reviews

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Super Reviewer
March 10, 2008
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.
Super Reviewer
½ March 10, 2008
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.
Super Reviewer
June 23, 2011
Really good film with a two gorgeous and very toned men! Cam Gigandet is beautiful. A must see!
Super Reviewer
½ July 30, 2008
Yes this does kinda add up to The Karate Kid for the Youtube generation, with an MTV makeover. This time using MMA basically like UFC, cage fighting using any fighting style. Despite the obvious plot and seeing this type of film more than a few times, this is pretty decent. It has a strong cast and the fight scenes are well shot. There is an extra on the DVD to get each of the fights in the film broken down into how they were filmed etc which is pretty good...all this and the beautiful Amber Heard!
Super Reviewer
March 10, 2008
I know that movie like this one won't have an original or great story, but they can put a little twist to make the movie more interesting and I think it works in this movie... The story was very standard, a new boy in the college trying to deal with the most popular guy and fell in love with his girlfriend... And when he knows that he'd been humiliated, he search for a mentor for a revenge... Even that, I like the twist that they gave in here like how Ryan must face Tyler in 1st round, but actually it was wrong... And then there's the scene when Ryan and Jake must face each other in the finals, but Ryan has been disqualified but they still have their final battle outside the arena... It was works for me... And the performance from Sean Faris and Cam Gigandet pleased me, while Academy Award nominee-Djimon Hounsou presence in this movie made this movie not turn into a B-class movie because of his good performance in here... Overall, it was a really good teenagers movie with a standard story but a little twist to made it more interesting... The one thing that I wondering about was the duration of this movie because usually the duration for this type was 90 minutes, but this one almost made it to 120 minutes...!!!
Super Reviewer
½ August 9, 2010
The fight scenes in this movie are actually pretty cool and entertaining, but the rest of the film is completely predictable. The script has it's cheesy moments also. I enjoyed the movie, but I probably wouldn't watch it again.
Super Reviewer
½ March 10, 2008
"Win or Lose... Everyone Has Their Fight"

At his new high school, a rebellious teen is lured into an underground fight club, where he finds a mentor in a mixed martial arts veteran.

Never Back Down is one of those movies you may happen upon while surfing the available films released on television and, out of curiosity or lack of better choices, inadvertently watch. The story by Chris Hauty seems to be a popular one, so many versions of this plot are floating around out there: angry lad meets his match in a high school kick boxing cum brutal fighting smooth ruffian and finds his way back to some semblance of normalcy by a dedicated coach. Jeff Wadlow directs this endless violence parade with some interesting faces - the angry young man Jake is portrayed by Tom Cruise lookalike Sean Faris, his 'underground fight club' opponent Ryan is Cam Gigandet - but the reason to keep watching this otherwise bloody mess of a film is the always fine Djimon Hounsou as the coach with experience and heart Jean Roqua. There is little character development and the dialogue is thankfully sparse, but if watching young men beat each other up is entertaining for you, then this is a film to sit through - unless you happen to locate a good book to read.
Super Reviewer
½ January 13, 2010
I am extremely mixed about this movie! The story is very average, but the fighting is incredible! I do give this film credit for trying many things that a lot of films fail to do!
Super Reviewer
February 8, 2009
Very typical in storyline structure to many of the 80?s Martial Arts films, in particular The Karate Kid and Bloodsport come to mind. It has all the crucial elements to make it a cheesy version of a film in this genre; the challenge, the love interest, the revenge, the training, the Master/student relationship, mixed with the look of a modern day teen movie. The guilty pleasure of it, is that despite all the showboating and the reasons behind the storyline, parts were pretty entertaining and it was different to see a mix of Martial Arts.

Djimon Hounsou, was possibly my biggest disappointment here, only because I feel he much worthier than this type of film, having said that, we were able to see his physical ability and his capabilities as a Martial Artist.
Super Reviewer
October 25, 2008
"Walking away and giving up are not the same thing.
- Good, 'cause I'm not doing either one"

Ok, we've got this Tom Cruise look-a-like, a Tyler Durden wannabe and the lifestyles of Californian rick kids. What's there not to like? A lot.

Feels like an update of "The Karate Kid", a poor kid who's an outsider and he meets his rival. Everybody knows what's to come.

After watching "Redbelt" earlier, this has nothing to do with the higher meaning of martial arts. In this movie, you hate someone, you kick his ass.

Good looking young kids who have it all, sun and the beach and sweaty testosterone pumped guys who pound themselves with MTV background music. That's what it's all about.

But somehow I managed to watch the film without being bored so it can't be that sucky? Can it?

"You look like shit
- That's an insult to shit"
Super Reviewer
March 24, 2008
Kung Fu is waaaay better than MMA.
Super Reviewer
March 13, 2008
Weakest direction I've seen in a long time.
Still wondering why Djimon Hounsou was in this.

I guess you should watch it only for Sean Faris's eyes.
Super Reviewer
March 16, 2008
Karate Kid meets MMA. The story is very much the same thing except the character of Jake has some fighting ability before having to be trained by the wise master.
The acting is fine for this movie but Hounsou is pretty sweet as the old MMA fighter turned gym owner. The fights are pretty well filmed and the story is pretty good as well.
The music in the flick tends to be a little loud when the pop songs play but the selection of the songs works well with the film.
I dug it.
Super Reviewer
½ March 11, 2008
What an amazing adrenalin-charged martial arts extravaganza film of the teen flick. I accepted what Chicago Tribune movie reviewer Michael Phillips said about this movie is a little Karate Kid, a smidge of Fight Club... a lot of The O.C. - I can see the point of views on the story. And Djimon Hounsou does a superb performance as the coach of Mixed Martial Arts.
Super Reviewer
July 25, 2008
If the ad execs from Abercrombie & Fitch watched The Karate Kid and Fight Club and then decided to make a movie, it probably would look something like this.
Super Reviewer
½ July 30, 2008
I really enjoyed this movie. It was like a Fight Club High School version. I really really liked this movie. Great Plot, Great Acting, Great Action, and a great ending. I think that this movie deserves alot more than what it got. I never even heard of it until the DVD came out. I really really liked this movie. Go out and rent it if you havent seen it, its very good.
Super Reviewer
½ April 28, 2008
It was a lot better than I suspected it would be. Although it did not have a very tight plot, it was entertaining nevertheless.
Super Reviewer
½ March 17, 2008
This movie exceeded my very low expectations in every aspect. Going in, I was dreading (but secretly looking forward to) this movie being nothing more than a hot meat showcase. And in that regard, it was.

But after the veneer of showing off hot guys and their ripped abs, the movie turned out to be not-so bad overall. It had a decent script that was low on the cheesy made-up teen colloquialisms and slang and actually delivered on a level deeper than kids dying for prom night to arrive.

Sure, it's a pretty shallow movie as a whole, but the acting was pretty good and the trite dialogue was kept to a minimum. Where the good stuff came in was with the more adult performances; cemented by Djimon Hounsou as a broken-spirited leader and Sean Faris' interacting with his mother. Those scenes were really deep, considering how superficial the film was.

The fight sequences themselves were amazingly choreographed and filmed. The use of slow motion and digital effects added a slickness to the film and made it pretty interesting to watch once the throbbing pecs and sweaty thighs got old.

But then again--those things never get old for me.
Super Reviewer
½ March 15, 2008
Enjoyable. The fighting was pretty sweet...not really realistic though. I hate it when in movies no matter how much you punch someone in the face they never really bleed or stay down.
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