So my brother and I had time on our hands and we had a choice to watch Crazy, Stupid, Love which I’ve already seen but he hasn’t. I knew, for a fact, he was going to love it. He’ll drool over Ryan Gosling the same way I did and he’ll think Emma Stone is a goddess, just like I did. But when I asked him if he wanted to watch it, he said “sure” but I kinda felt that he wasn’t too into it. He knows it’s a hip-roaring comedy but it’s also smart and clever and it was a lazy day and not one for really thinking. That’s when I remembered that we were planning on watching two fighting movies just because we wanted to see very attractive men, shirtless, fighting. It was really all for eye-candy sake and it was just supposed to be no brainer fun.
We had prepared Never Back Down with the delicious Sean Farris and Fighting with Channing Tatum. He had already seen the former but neither of us had seen the latter. But it’s Channing Tatum. So it was a go.
Surprisingly, Never Back Down was really enjoyable and it wasn’t just an eye-candy movie. Not for me, anyway. We both thought the storyline was solid and fair and that Sean Farris manages to elevate himself from his good looks to really be an earnest and soulful actor. He’s not yet in the level of, let’s say, Christian Bale or Ryan Gosling but with what the film required, he was able to pull it off. And the movie itself wasn’t annoying. It took quite a bit of suspension of disbelief but, all in all, it was enjoyable.
Then we put on Fighting and we were floored. We were absolutely floored with how good the movie is. I have to give props to director Dito Montiel for not romanticizing this world of underground fighting. The world was gritty and scary and there was always this feeling of dread that pervaded the whole film. I couldn’t relax because I always felt something bad was going to happen. It was amazing. It was so thrilling. It was so nice to be in the hands of someone who was very adept at creating mood and atmosphere.
I want to give serious props as well to the screenwriters Robert Munic and Dito Moniel because the film was solid and tight. We go straight into the story and they don’t pepper the script with useless backstory or ruin the flow with long moments of over dramatization. It moved at its proper pace and kept the under currents of fear constant. The back story is told as the story progresses so the story is moving forward but gives you better insight into each character so it always feels like it is moving.
And the fight scenes were so awesome. It was realistic and gruesome and brutal. No special choreography; it really felt like a serious, real brawl. I really appreciated that.
And the acting was superb. Over time, I’ve come to really appreciate Channing Tatum as an actor. He’s very honest. Maybe he has yet to explore a larger amount of range but all the films I’ve seen him in has kept him within his capabilities and so he always gives honest and true performances. In Fighting, he portrays an inarticulate loner and he does this so well. He stammers and he changes his words in mid-sentence because he’s looking for the words. His conversations with Zulay Henao, who plays Zulay in the movie (yeah, same name), almost seem completely spontaneous. She, too, finds herself at a loss for words and she too stammers and tries to find the right things to say. It was the most realistic conversation I can remember seeing in a film. It was spontaneous and didn’t feel at all scripted. It was so lovely to see.
And it helps that both have real chemistry. It was explosive.
And Terrence Howard. Wow! What an actor. I knew he was a good actor, especially in movies like Crash and The Brave One but ever since he was nominated for an Oscar, I started hearing that he was problematic in the set and that he has become difficult to work with. Regardless of what I may think of him as a person (which is all based on hearsay, mind you), I think he is an excellent actor and this movie showcases it to its fullest. Howard plays Harvey Boarden, who ends up becoming Tatum’s fight agent and he plays it in a way you don’t expect and in such a way that is endearing yet still annoying. You don’t trust him and you don’t necessarily like him, but you can’t stop watching him and you are interested in seeing what else he’s going to do. He draws you in and he’s terrific at it.
Fighting was a huge surprise and I’m a big fan of the film. I thought it was very well made and is quite high up in my list of really good movies. We may have gone out of our way to just watch no-brainer, pop corn films and get a look at gorgeous guys without shirts fighting, but my brother and I were treated to a really, really good film that got us engaged and really involved.