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A Bull Moose Movie

Movie title: Fighting (2009)
Spoilers ahead: No

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As much as I hate to disappoint those readers who would rather have less info on what a film is about, I’m going to have to disappoint. There’s no way I can hold back saying that if you’ve seen Jean-Claude Van Damme in Lionheart (1990), then you’ll find this one very familiar. With just a few changes, this is it. The plot is the same, save for one plot-twist at the end, and the characters resemble each other closely. Sorry, I had to do it!

The plot is as narrow-minded as the brutish stare coming from the eyes of the show’s likable star, Shawn MacArthur (Channing Tatum). I swear, the kid is 2/3 bull moose brawler and 1/3 Ricky Schroder. He was well picked for the part. Shawn is a small-time counterfeiter in New York City. By chance, he becomes acquainted with a scam-artist and thereby put in touch with an underworld of bear-knuckle brawling for cash.

But fighting is not all that Shawn does in Fighting. His eyes are on a beautiful waitress named Zulay Valez (Zulay Henao). Shawn’s world is a rough world, but he’s not scared of it. He’s a bull moose, remember (in attitude, appearance, and intellect). He has a steam-less, sideshow romance while becoming a rising star in a world of illegal street fights and clears a few thousand on fight nights, and all he’s got to do is put up with shady characters and streets where trouble lurks. None of this amazes me.

What amazes me is how a fighter can expect to do this well when he almost never trains, but dates and goes for dinner outings. There’s about ten seconds of film-time seeing him train. That’s it. More amazing is that everyone in the world of Fighting is concernedly in the cerebral red-zone. The people who organize these street fights take few precautions to see to it that the fighters have enough room to fight, and no one seems too worried about the police catching onto their activities. But then again, you never see the cops. They must suck tremendously. You hear them in the distance, but they are such moping morons that they never come around.

Other things bother me too, like why people who get knocked out stay out for as long as they do in the film. Normally, people who get knocked out are “out” for about 30 seconds to a minute. Then they are helped up and call it a day. They don’t lie there as though tucked in bed. There is no helping the losers up, no after-match embraces, nothing to give off any sense of sportsmanship, and yet everyone is confidently expected to remain approvingly tight-lipped enough not to squeal to the authorities about the goings-on.

The fight scenes are spiritless, but I give credit for one thing: they involve a lot of grappling and tackling, which deserves kudos because 90% of fights end up on the ground. Not a few young viewers will be disappointed that more WWE-style violence isn’t here, but those of us who thought Van Damme’s glorified kick routines were pooh-pooh will be happy to see them be dropped.

But the real kicker that seals the deal on just how cognitively cut down these fighters are is a simple one. The fighters participating in these underground fights win all or lose all, and there are no rules to them…eye-gouging, nut-kicking, head-stomping, it’s all fair game. The winners take home a few thousand dollars while the losers take home nothing. Fighting for thousands of dollars or nothing makes you as dumb as a bag of hammers. No one in the film ever takes the time to wonder how they will deal as losers with medical injuries, but even if they win, the amount of money won might not be enough to cover medical expenses—this risk gets bigger the more fights you put under your belt. Like a car, you’re going to need maintenance. It’s simple logic, but because few people in the film have an IQ higher than a pack of Irish elk, no one sees it.

A thin layer of drama and fine dialogue don’t provide the entertainment value to iron out the wrinkles.

(JH)

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Grade: D+ (1 ½ stars)
Rated: PG-13
Summation: In New York City, a young counterfeiter is introduced to the world of underground street fighting by a seasoned scam artist, who becomes his manager on the bare-knuckling brawling circuit.
Director: Dito Montiel
Starring: Channing Tatum “Shawn MacArthur,” Terrence Howard “Harvey Boarden,” Zulay Henao “Zulay Valez,” Michael Rivera “Ajax,” Flaco Navaja “Ray Ray,” Peter Anthony Tambakis “Z (as Peter Tambakis),” Luis Guzm├ín “Martinez”
Genre: Action / Drama

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