Never Back Down (2008), or Isn’t NEVER Backing Down A Little Extreme?

11 03 2009
I think the guy on the right side of the poster wants to have violent sex with me. I immediately dont like this movie...

I think the guy on the right side of the poster wants to have violent sex with me. I immediately don't like this movie...

You know, normally I’m not one to back down from a lot of things. I don’t get bullied around in grocery stores, I’m not thrown down a flight of stairs on a daily basis, and I’m also not pushed into a corner and belittled too often, and it’s all because of my tendency to never back down. Could it be my courtesy, my happy-go-lucky nature, or my vow to not hang around people who will try and make me back down? Probably not, because those qualities of my life are insignificant compared to never backing down. And do you know what the best part about that is? Never backing down isn’t just my motto and the inspiration for my line of cologne (Olfactorie: Never back down… from aroma…); it’s also a lifestyle for today’s sexy youth. I wasn’t aware of this hip, underground culture full of people not willing to back down, but today’s movie, Never Back Down, has really opened my eyes to a whole new way of living. Therefore, I would like to announce today that I will be retiring this website to accomplish my new dream; to fight in my underwear with a bunch of high school GQ thugs and show off to 17 year old girls just how little I am willing to back down! My mother would be so proud…

So, here’s the skinny. Jake Tyler is a “cute” popular kid moving to Orlando with his family, which consists of his widowed mother and tennis extraordinaire brother Charlie. Jake has had a little bit of a temper ever since his dad died, and often finds himself in scraps, but he is a good kid. Orlando high school is very brutal, however, and it begins to pull at the dark side of our plucky hero. It all stems from the school’s main hobby for kids like him (testosterone-fueled psychos with a penchant for beating each other to death), which is hardcore street fights in the style of kickboxing that he discovers while mistaking a match-up for a case of bullying. The person he believed to be bullied is named Max, and the two strike up a friendship. Max invites him to train with his instructor, a martial arts badass named Jean Roqua. He declines, but he does accept an invitation from somebody. Her name is Baja Miller; she is “totally hot”, interested in Jake’s standoffish but friendly ways, and did I mention that she is “totally hot”, because that’s all her character is good for? Anyway, she invites Jake to her boyfriend Ryan’s mansion for a party (gee… thanks… boyfriend, huh…). Jake goes to the ritzy party and meets Ryan, and you’ll never guess this, so I might as well just tell you. Ryan is a jerk! Can you believe a “hot” girl would ever be so shallow as to supersede looks with genuine character? Good thing we live in the real world, where that would never happen! Anyway, Ryan is part of the underground ass-kicking culture in the high school, and challenges Jake to a brawl. Jake refuses, but when Ryan says some disparaging things about Jake’s dead father, he loses his marbles and charges his antagonist. Ryan turns out to be really good though, and beats the shit out of poor Jake. Humiliated and utterly defeated, Jake leaves in disgrace. The next day, friend Max offers once again the chance to train with Jean Roqua. This time he accepts, and the badass trainer takes him under his wing. But Roqua can sense that Jake is doing this for the wrong reasons, and that all he wants is petty revenge. Can his trainer set Jake up on a higher path to use martial arts for something other than fighting (???)? Can Jake defeat Ryan, redeem his honor, and get the girl? Will he really NEVER BACK DOWN?

There is nothing redeeming about this self-satisfied glorification of high-school fight clubs. I can think of not one thing. While it is hilariously over-wrought with maudlin drama, including the obvious dead-father excuse Jake uses to pound high school kids into hamburger meat, that in no way cleanses the movie of its sins. It is stuffy, chock-full of cliches, and cast from the most ignorant mold.

The message is confusing. The title of the damn movie is called Never Back Down, but that is all Jake wants to do. He isn’t starting any trouble with anyone or causing any mischief. He is merely instigated constantly by forces beyond his control. But all he wants to do is go to school and make out with Baja. It’s not like he’s Mr. Roid Rage here, and yet they treat him like he’s an animal waiting to bite someone’s face off. In reality, he’s only fighting in order TO back down, to not fight anymore. That’s the only way Roqua will teach him any of the good stuff, for that matter. What’s the deal with senseis anyway? All they do is talk about how martial arts are only for self-defense and how they should really never even be used, but then they always make sure they’re in tip-top shape to kick some ass before a big tournament. I think that “Crane Kick” is a little more than self-defense, Mr. Miyagi.

The actors are young, dumb, and supremely stiff. Certainly they are beautiful, and a couple of them may come to bat for a better movie somewhere on down the line, but I was not interested in the least as to who these people were. If the characters were not shallow, like Baja and Ryan, then they were melodramatic like Jake and Roqua. Speaking of Roqua, I am really starting to get down in the dumps about Djimon Honsou. This guy actually has the chops to be a real actor, as shown in Amistad and Gladiator. Instead, he models underwear and performs limply in bit parts for sub-par movies. He deserves better, and the only person who is holding him back is himself.

I can speak no more of this movie. I am forced to BACK DOWN. It insults me from start to finish, and I refuse to take it anymore. It is a less intelligent rehash of The Karate Kid with “cool” MMA moves and Myspace-generation dialog. Yuck. I give Never Back Down 2 1/2 brainless underwear models out of 10. I recommend you NEVER BACK DOWN by staying far away from this picture.

Tomorrow is the PSA! We take on another sub-par movie then with Transformers!

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