Won't Back Down (2012)



Critic Consensus: Despite the best efforts of its talented leads, Won't Back Down fails to lend sufficient dramatic heft or sophistication to the hot-button issue of education reform.

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Movie Info

Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis play two determined mothers, one a teacher, who will stop at nothing to transform their children's failing inner city school. Facing a powerful and entrenched bureaucracy, they risk everything to make a difference in the education and future of their children. This powerful story of parenthood, friendship and courage mirrors events that are making headlines daily. -- (C) 20th Century Fox
PG (for thematic elements and language)
Directed By:
Written By:
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Maggie Gyllenhaal
as Jamie Fitzpatrick
Viola Davis
as Nona Alberts
Holly Hunter
as Evelyn Riske
Oscar Isaac
as Michael Perry
Rosie Perez
as Breena Harper
Emily Alyn Lind
as Malia Fitzpatrick
Dante Brown
as Cody Alberts
Ving Rhames
as Principal Thompson
Lance Reddick
as Charles Alberts
Bill Nunn
as Principal Holland
Ned Eisenberg
as Arthur Gould
Marianne Jean-Baptiste
as Olivia Lopez
Nancy Bach
as Deborah
Lucia Forte
as District Receptionist
Sarab Kamoo
as Principal Chamudes
Teri Clark Linden
as Cody's Teacher
Joe Coyle
as Clay Bathgate
Jennifer Massey
as Valerie Bathgate
Reavis Graham
as Hank Hunt
Richard Barlow
as Mr. Brandt
Rebecca Harris
as Ms. Southwick
Kevin Jiggets
as Mr. Mannis
Patricia Cray
as Ms. Schwartz
Juan Veza
as Mr. Parrish
Sara Lindsey
as Thompson's Assistant
Sue Jin Song
as Bureaucrat #1
Ted Russell
as Bureaucrat #2
Carmella Gioio
as Bureaucrat #3
Kurt Yue
as Daddy Drop-off
Gabrielle McClinton
as Babysitter
Elisa Perry
as Rhonda
Dionne Audain
as Adam's Parent
Becky Meister
as Teacher #1
Toni Romano
as Teacher #2
Stephen Weigand
as Riske's Assistant
Kyler Norton
as Nintendo Kid
Jack Walz
as Boy at Lottery
Ivanna Eubanks
as Girl at Lottery
Rick Applegate
as School Superintendent
Julius Tennon
as Thomas
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Critic Reviews for Won't Back Down

All Critics (100) | Top Critics (33)

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | January 21, 2013
Toronto Star
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | January 21, 2013
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | January 21, 2013
New York Daily News
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | January 21, 2013
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

It mixes attempts at realism and grit with transparently Hollywoodized good guys-vs.-bad guys social melodrama. That requires a deft directorial hand, but director Daniel Barnz doesn't seem to have it.

Full Review… | September 30, 2012
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic

Social-issue movies can have real societal impact. That's why Won't Back Down, which presses a lot of hot buttons, deserves to be taken seriously, and criticized seriously, on its own terms.

Full Review… | September 28, 2012
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Won't Back Down


3 3/4's--Very inspirational, and heartwarming. Made-for-tvish. A sad statement on the condition of the American education system, but depicts a good step for improvement. Well acted. Nicely done..

Cynthia S.
Cynthia S.

Super Reviewer

It's a film with a big heart, but it's just so schlocky... Maggie Gyllenhaal plays essentially the same role she did in Crazy Heart, and the supporting ensemble does alright, but as a whole the project is sentimentally overwrought and occasionally veers into Lifetime territory. I appreciate the value of the story, but it's just not much of a movie... "fighting the system" has become a predictable formula, and this particular film does nothing others haven't done already.

Daniel Perry
Daniel Perry

Super Reviewer

Won't Back Down is a prime example of a movie that suffers from a weak script and average direction, but is saved by excellent and noteworthy performances. Having grand aspirations regarding the failing education system in urban public schools, it ultimately gives no solid solutions and overgeneralizes the myriad problems regarding said topic. Quite obviously, the movie leans heavily toward the right politically. (Damn those corrupt Teacher's Unions! If only everything ran like a business! That would fix urban blight!) Nevertheless, the performances given by Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal and the supporting cast keep the whole venture afloat. And it holds together better than "white savior" schlock like The Help. But when compared to other movies in its particular sub-genre such as Stand and Deliver and Lean on Me, or when its message is seriously analyzed, it doesn't quite make the grade.

Joshua Sheetz
Joshua Sheetz

Super Reviewer

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