Never Back Down (2008)
OK I see enough movies and occasionally get in the mood for a rant, so I've decided to review them when I feel like I really have something to say. I think I'll post most of my reviews on rotten tomatoes, but I'll put this one here since it's a martial arts film.
Anyway I'm sure everyone here has heard of this film and either seen it and regretted it, or avoided it, but I just felt cathartic about writing this so I decided to share. Hopefully this link works, I'm not sure but I've copied my review anyway: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/user/820415/reviews/
This movie is a horrible portrayal of mixed martial arts and what it is all about. I can't complain about the fight scenes because they actually look realistic for an action movie, but as far as the plot goes the movie doesn't rise to the occasion.
I rate this movie low because it grossly misrepresents mixed martial arts in order to use a plot almost completely borrowed from "the Karate Kid". Before I get to the problems with this movie I'll state the good points to it. The fight scenes are very well choreographed. All the actors did a good job despite not having much to work with. Despite all the mis-portrayals of martial arts, the movie did portray MMA as an athletic endeavor. Everyone who fights in this movie trains hard, and there is no B.S. about Kata, or not physically exerting ones self.
The fist misrepresentation is when Jake joins a world class MMA gym and is told he is not allowed to fight anywhere else ever for any reason. There are two reasons to learn martial arts: so you can fight when you have to, and so you can fight in competition. Joining a MMA training gym and not being allowed to compete, cross-train, or defend yourself is like joining a basketball training gym and being told your never allowed to play basketball outside the gym.
Next the main character is forced into an illegal competition when his best friend is beaten almost to death. All characters consider calling the police but decline for fear of repercussions and instead decide to enter an illegal underground martial arts competition. Even the attending physician turns a blind eye. I hardly think the problem with this needs pointing out but I'll try.
Unfortunately the above seems to be a cliche pitfall in martial ars movies. The characters are placed in unlikely scenarios where they have to fight. This sort of thing attracts the wrong kind of people to martial arts. This movie could have been about facing one's fears in a competition but instead it became about settling scores without police interference.
Finally this movie portrays MMA in two ways. On one hand Max and Jake at some point become aggressive and cocky from studying martial arts, then later Max learns through training to control his emotions and use discipline to win. Studying martial arts and competing is actually a really good reality check. It requires a level head, and requires a lot of discipline. Sometimes martial arts lead to cocky assholes, but this is more often the case with martial arts that don't compete and tell there students that the techniques are too deadly to use.
Unfortunately this movie is supposed to be about mixed martial arts, but it only portrays illegal competitions, and portrays competitors as aggressive teens with daddy issues. The impression it sends to anyone unfamiliar with MMA is that the sport is synonymous with brutal fight clubs, and leads to aggressive behavior. I can't recommend this movie because it is ignorant, and it is lacking in decent plot. I hope that one day mma is portrayed in a movie by someone who actually wants to endorse it.