Never Back Down

Never Back Down


Reviewed by: Darren Amner

For any kid starting out in a new place, it can be hard to settle in, especially if you’re Jake (Sean Faris) a quiet and withdrawn guy whose fuse is so tightly wound up that if pushed he is likely to explode without regard to the consequences.

A star athlete back in his old town, he now finds himself surrounded by all the sun-kissed sultriness that Orlando, Florida has to offer. What’s not to love? There’s seemingly something going on all the time: parties, babes in bikinis, expensive cars, kids basically living the American dream – but all too much too soon.

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Jake brings with him a troubled past, blaming himself for the loss of his father in an alcohol-fueled car crash. By moving to a new town he hopes to erase the memories of his past and make a fresh start. One day he catches a glimpse of a beautiful blonde girl called Baja (Amber Heard) in class, who seems to have more going on than meets the eye. She invites Jake to a party which will change his life forever.

Jake is goaded into a fight by Ryan McCarthy (Cam Gigandet) a spoiled rich kid who also happens to be dating Baja (unbeknown to Jake, who feels betrayed by his initial object of desire). Humiliated, badly beaten and enraged, Jake’s inner fuse gets re-ignited causing his temper to rise from within and it’s only when his good natured friend Max sees something else in Jake that he decides to help steer him in a new direction. This leads to a new discovery - mixed martial arts.

MMA is an art form that only the most focused students can really master. Here it is taught by Roqua (Hounsou) who instils dedication, discipline and passion into all his students. This is exactly what Jake needs - to focus and to discover who he truly is.

Never Back Down has all the ingredients of a fun Friday night out – it has a sexy young cast, cutting-edge editing, pulsating pop tunes and a good message for the youth of today, who are its clear target audience. Director Jeff Wadlow captures the movie's fights extremely well using kinetic camera movements, slow motion encased in rib-cracking sound effects.

The cast are all up and coming stars of the young Hollywood circle. Faris, as Jake, has reminded people of a young Tom Cruise and it will be very interesting to see how he follows up this film, especially with the extra attention it will create for him. Heard, I hear, is an accomplished actress, but as Baja she is given little to do and appears more as the token eye-candy, although she acquits herself admirably. Djimon Hounsou adds real class to the cast as Roqua in the mentor or sensei role. He delivers an assured performance in the one substantial adult role.

Gigandet as Ryan, Jake’s arch nemesis, is also very good. Being menacing seems to come naturally to him and he does all his bad deeds on screen with a sly smile across his face, which reminded me of a Bond villain in some scenes.

Overall this movie is a fun, feel-good fight night and a nice alternative to PPV boxing; here you won’t feel cheated after five minutes for not getting to see much action, as Never Back Down is loaded with it.

Fight Club for the next generation.

Reviewed on: 01 Apr 2008
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Never Back Down packshot
A teenager joins a secret school fight club and starts training in martial arts.
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Director: Jeff Wadlow

Writer: Chris Hauty

Starring: Sean Faris, Amber Heard, Cam Gigandet, Evan Peters, Leslie Hope, Djimon Hounsou, Wyatt Smith, Affion Crockett

Year: 2008

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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Fight Club