And the award for the most cleverly-misleading movie marketing of 2009 goes to... (drum roll) whoever tagged Fighting as: "Rocky meets Fight Club". Yes, it's about a nobody trying to make something of himself with his fists and yes it's about, er, fighting (the title kind of gives it away), but that’s as far as it goes. While the former was a gritty character piece and the latter a multi-layered ground-breaker, this is nothing more than a seen-it-before excuse to see Channing Tatum in a vest.

He plays tortured small-town boy Shawn MacArthur who, having moved to New York with nothing, tries to make a living selling knock-off gear. However, when scam-artist Harvey Boarden (Terence Howard) notices Shawn handling himself well in a scrap, he offers him the chance to make some serious money in the underground streetfighting circle.

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Though he impressed a few film bods with the indie-flavoured A Guide To Recognising Your Saints, here writer and co-director Dito Montiel doesn't offer any inspiration. Undeniably, the fights have a realistically raw intensity about them, but the outcome never really matters to us as we've got no investment in any of the characters or for what passes as plot arcs. To be fair, Tatum isn’t bad and it’d be interesting to see him given something that doesn’t just rely on his ability to brood, but Howard’s performance is so strangely mixed that you’re never sure where he’s coming from.

There could have been mileage out of Shawn's budding romance with local waitress Zulay (a sweet Zulay Henao) or his fractured Daddy-issues, but neither are given proper room to breathe. Instead of emoting and getting involved we’re left with a sea of questions - how could Harvey tell he was that good from the brief scrap he saw? How is he suddenly up with the big boys after a few matches? And why the hell are we still watching?

Packing a slight punch for sure, but Fighting doesn’t have any heart or head to go with its fists. Must do better.

Reviewed on: 21 Oct 2009
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A young street hustler is drawn into the world of bare-knuckle fighting.
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Jennie Kermode *1/2

Director: Dito Montiel

Writer: Robert Munic, Dito Montiel

Starring: Channing Tatum, Terrence Howard, Zulay Henao, Michael Rivera, Flaco Navaja, Peter Anthony Tambakis, Luis Guzmán

Year: 2009

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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