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With: Channing Tatum, Terrence Howard, Brian White, Luis Guzman, Zulay Henao
Written by: Dito Montiel, Robert Munic
Directed by: Dito Montiel
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense fight sequences, a sex scene and brief strong language
Running Time: 105
Date: 04/24/2009

Fighting (2009)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Soggy Knuckle Sandwich

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A few years ago Dito Montiel adapted his own book and made his directorial debut with A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, a character-driven coming-of-age picture. So it's not surprising that his follow-up, Fighting, contains little fighting and lots of character development. Unfortunately, while the characters are interesting, their situation is banal, and the fighting footage is absolutely terrible. A cheap, but kind New York hustler (Terrence Howard) discovers the pugilist prowess of Shawn MacArthur (Channing Tatum) and puts him in some illegal bare-knuckle street fights for big paychecks. Everything points toward a showdown between Shawn and his old school rival Evan Hailey (Brian J. White). Of course, there's pretty girl -- a single mom, no less -- played by pretty Zulay Henao (who looks like Denise Richards' younger sister). Tatum has a kind-hearted, dim-witted appeal (not unlike Stallone in the original Rocky); in the subway he holds open a gate for a lady, and dozens of other people try to take advantage and squeeze through while Shawn stands there dumbly. Montiel has a real ear for organic street life and some of the film's ordinary, in-between scenes are more vivid than the big plot-advancing moments. But those godawful fight scenes really irked me; Montiel stars shaking the camera from the word "go" and never stops until someone's on the floor. During the first fight, between two white guys in tank tops and with short hair, it's hard to tell who's who. He even ruins something as simple as a head-butt by jerking the camera sideways during the move, as if we needed help figuring out what was going on.

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