Put up your Duke!

Shawn has been living on the streets since the death of his father. He has tried to scam people with counterfeit material to make ends meet. One day he goes too far and ends up fighting off some muggers on the street, but the muggers are a set-up by a low-end fighting manager named Harvey. He makes a fighting proposal to Shawn that will not only get him off the streets, but also give him some permanent dough in his pocket.

Fighting is a simple movie with virtually no build. It’s much like a video game that is action driven; if you have enough action you really don’t require a story. Regretfully, movies like this require a bit of a story. We’re introduced to Channing Tatum’s character, Shawn, by him letting people out of a subway without them needing to wait. Instantly you understand that this guy wants to do good in his life. The next instance he is selling material on the streets that is clearly counterfeit, which conflicts with what we first saw. Next, he pretty much gives himself to a stranger he knows nothing about in order to make money quickly. For someone with so much street smart you would figure he wouldn’t fall for Harvey’s proposal (Terrence Howard) so quickly. That’s how the movie fails badly; you basically have no character development or story development for that matter. Even Lionheart (Van Damme) built a solid story, though simple, around the fighting. You also got some good character development in Lionheart, although it was incredibly shallow. Fighting heads down that same path with its characters as they’re trying to develop Shawn, Harvey and even the bad guy by creating a series of smaller back-stories. The failing point here is that these back-stories are disjointed and really never returned to. For example, there is some terrible blood between Shawn and Evan (the bad guy). You’re given pieces about it, but you’re not really given a true reason why Evan hates Shawn. Sure there is an issue between Evan and Shawn’s father, but it just fades in quickly and fades out; it never lingers.  That’s a problem because you need more motivation to hate Evan or to prove Evan wrong in the story, but it ends up being a reason that audiences can’t connect with. I’m not sure if the writing is to blame or the producing, but it’s tough to feel anything for Shawn or Evan or the story as a whole. Simply put, if you’re looking for motivation for Shawn to keep fighting and to beat Evan at the end then you’re going to come up short.  Oh, and don’t try to hang on to the love story too much, it’s shallow and confusing.

Now, the actual ‘fighting’ portion of the film is fun to watch. The cinematography and the interaction between actors during the fighting sequences is nothing short of real and impressive. Sure the fighting environments could be compared to those in the video game series Street Fighter, but nonetheless the fighting is pretty darn good. The pinnacle of the fighting, outside of the last fight, had to be Shawn’s fight with the Asian fellow (you’ll know it). The choreography was spot on and with every kick and punch in that fight you’re sure to cringe a bit. So, with this portion of the movie you get what the movie advertises. The fighting is the main purpose of the film and for most of Fighting‘s viewing audience they will be satisfied with what they see. It’s an action film that has plenty of action in it, so don’t go into it expecting anything else.

Speaking of which, Channing Tatum is great in his role as Shawn. He certainly could have been written better, but in comparison to his lackluster performance in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, he certainly seemed very comfortable here. He got the street lingo down, brought the body for the ladies and sold his performance as a struggling street urchin. As for Terrence Howard, he mumbles really well. He plays a great part as the ‘manager’ for Tatum’s street fighter. My only issue with him is that he simply wasn’t slimy enough. Even Van Damme’s manager in Lionheart had that one defining slim moment where you really hated him for what he did. Regretfully, you never truly hate or have that moment with Howard’s Harvey as he is beaten down by everyone in the film that you simply don’t blame him for that one defining a-hole moment.  I just wish he was a bit more edgy, shady or whatever you want to call it to make him look more sinister than he was presented.  As for the rest of the cast, they did well, but certainly weren’t memorable.

Black and blu is the only way to go

Story aside, the technical look and feel to the film is only enhanced by it being on blu-ray. The fighting especially looks really raw and tough as you’ll find most of the places that Shawn fights in are dark and dreary. It looks tough all around. The black and white colors really benefit off the HD upgrade and bring a new definition of entertainment to the film. The sound effects and soundtrack also add some added value to an otherwise par to sub-par film. In the blu-ray area it’s very impressive.

As for features, here’s what you get:

– Deleted Scenes

– Unrated and Theatrical Release

– Digital Copy

– BD-Live

You don’t get a lot here, but I’m happy to see Universal stepping into the Digital Copy arena. It’s so nice to be able to have a digital copy of the movie and keep it on a laptop. While this isn’t for kids, their other releases (such as Coraline) are a godsend on trips.

Anyway, you get some decent deleted scenes and two versions of the film, so there’s something to be had. I would have loved to hear some commentary from actors/directors/whoever and gain some more insight on the development. That helps the film out sometimes when you can explain your intentions and execution.