Never Back Down Reviews
Movie its nothing new, just entertaining.
Fight sceenes are good, but its just cliché after cliché.
When we meet Jake Tyler, he's all rage issues and anger with talk about his old man being a white hot trigger that sets him off. With quick flashbacks and temper flare-ups with shirts, it feels like his dad could be the villain, but we quickly realize that all that rage is a volcano of guilt for backing down when it came to something that mattered, for not putting up a fight when he should have. It eats at him with everything he does: he doesn't drive because he didn't drive then, he fights because he couldn't fight then, he's a complete mess.
He seems fairly loose and willing to give things a try in the move, more than most people would be on their first day I'd think. When he learns that the past has followed him to his new location and he becomes betrayed and trapped into a fight because of past reputation, I feel for him. There are a ton of cameras and online videos in this movie, but it's not about the glory of the internet. It's about the horrors how everything you do can haunt you, like how his entire school knew about his dead father by the middle of the week and used it to bully him into a beatdown. It's also about taking control of yourself so you won't be ashamed of what you do in the future.
I really like the use of Hounsou's school as an outlet. I had the mother's same reaction when he continued on getting roped in by Max to live vicariously through him and his fighting prowess. But it wasn't about fighting. It was about dealing with his inner fury, learning to control and manage it so it would no longer control him. It was about healing, and his coach knew it, saw it, and managed it in a safe environment with a steady but forceful hand.
There's also no one flat in this movie. Every named character has a motivation, reason, and thing they hate about themselves or their situation that they are dealing with. Max pushes Jake into fighting because that's all he has with his family not around, and seeing someone so good at something he wants to do confuses him. Baha hates the manipulation and the games McDonald creates. McDonald has a home life with an insecure father who makes his kid feel weak to feel strong himself. Jake's mother is dealing with grief and loss and anger of her own, but she can't let it out because she has two kids depending on her, one of whom is going to a very prestigious school and she's at work often judged by the uniform she wears and the amount she's not at home. There's great dynamics between the principal cast.
One of my favorite things about the movie was the end. Yes, even though the movie hit all the points of your standard 'underdog vs bully with big tournament showdown' movie points, I can't recall any movie where the main character walks away completely from the tournament. The fact that he wasn't there for the championship, he was just there so no one else in his life would get hurt by stopping the guy doing it, and the way he left it there... the fight after really doesn't matter except for McDonald's character arc. Jake Tyler's already finished his and overcome his demons.
I believe that despite a plot we've seen hundreds of times and these rich white suburbanites so bored that they all fight club, the characters were really rich for a film of its type, the fight scenes themselves were really crisp and well-executed, the points it was trying to make were sound and well-founded by the actions and histories of the characters themselves, and Jake Tyler was an infinitely better protagonist than Daniel LaRusso.