Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Not Just A Whole Lot Of Fighting

Starring Channing Tatum and Terrence Howard, Fighting tells the story of Shawn MacArthur (Channing Tatum), a small-town boy who has come to New York City with nothing but a dark past. When scam artist Harvey Boarden (Terrence Howard) offers Shawn help at making real cash by streetfighting, the two form an uneasy partnership. Shawn and Harvey both find success, but there's also struggle -- for brotherhood, survival, and respect both in and out of the streetfighting ring. Their world involves the corrupt bare-knuckle circuit, where rich men bet on disposable pawns. If Shawn ever hopes to escape the dark world in which he’s found himself, he must now face the toughest fight of his life.
Writer/director Dito Montiel drops down a few rungs after his promising debut film "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints," with an undernourished drama about small-town fighter Shawn MacArthur (Tatum) who comes to Manhattan where he meets two-bit hustler Harvey Boarden (Howard). Harvey introduces Shawn to a world of underground street fighting, and Shawn proves himself a viable money-maker with an early steak of hard fought wins. The well-filmed impromptu bouts are appropriately gritty and energetic, but it's the film's romantic aspirations between Shawn and cocktail waitress Zulay (played by newcomer Zulay Valez) that provide a much-needed emotional lift to the otherwise dead-end social atmosphere. The ever-watchable Terrence Howard mixes things up with a quirky slowed-down accent that keeps you hanging on his every word, and Montiel cranks up the suspense with a third-act surprise climax that pays off nicely. Fighting's title puts aside any questions about the sort of genre story at hand, and to that end the filmmaker creates bare-knuckle fight sequences that have the kind of uncontained freestyle roaming quality of Martin Scorsese's celebrated bar brawl sequence in Mean Streets. The Italian underground mob world of Scorsese's '70s era New York is transposed to a leaner modern-day Manhattan where a Russian-operated crime syndicate is responsible for promoting no-holds-barred fights in private locations for a select group of gamblers willing to bet large sums of money on the outcome. The Wall Street frat boys that show up to invest their cash with Harvey are the epitome of the kind of greedy testosterone-obsessed guys that America has come to loath. Once we know that Shawn can handle himself in the ring, he runs into Evan Hailey (Brian White) a former wrestling teammate from high school in Birmingham, Alabama. Backstory provides that Shawn's father was their wrestling coach, who came between the two rivals during a knockdown-drag-out fight and suffered a series of unforgivable blows from Shawn's fists. It's this bit of teased-up personal drama that elicits an inevitable all-or-nothing match between Shawn and Evan that gives the movie its overflowing climax. Unexpectedly, Fighting exudes romantic warmth in Shawn's courtship of Zulay, already a mother to a young daughter. During an extended scene in her grandmother's Bronx apartment the couple painstakingly pursue a first kiss that Zulay's familial chaperone actively attempts to prevent. Montiel lets the sequence go on longer than we expect, and the naturalistic humor that comes from the situation endears us to the characters. Fighting seems like a no-brainer project for Dito Montiel that he needed to get out of his system before he can move back into an emotionally rarefied world as complex as that of his first film. Nonetheless, Montiel finishes Fighting with a narrative flourish that accomplishes the hoped-for effect of a movie aimed at romantically inclined urban audiences. No one has to keep fighting. A dramatic 4 on my "Go See" scale.

WTF? Moment : After Shawn buys a box of umbrellas from a Korean guy to sell later, it starts to rain as he takes them home. When he spots Harvey in a resturant he goes to confront him about his partner that stole his money. It's here that we notice that the box is now dry and has some umbrellas missing. After he leaves the resturant with the box it has stopped raining, but the box is repeatedly wet and then dry throughout the scene.

No comments: