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Fighting – Review

Fighting

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DITO Montiel’s Fighting is a film that does exactly what it says on the label. It’s about a street fighter and it hits all the right targets in a refreshingly old-fashioned kind of way.

In Channing Tatum, it has an appealing lead star who brings plenty of charisma to match the requisite brawn, while in co-star Terrence Howard it has another enigmatic performer who is an intriguing customer to hang out with.

Montiel, as he proved in debut movie A Guide To Recognising Your Saints, knows how to shoot New York and has a keen ear for dialogue.

Hence, Fighting has plenty going for it, both in terms of character and the obligatory fight scenes.

The story focuses on small-town boy Shawn MacArthur (Tatum) who meets and unwittingly befriends scam artist Harvey Boarden (Howard) after being robbed in New York. Noticing that Shawn has a natural talent for fighting, Harvey offers his young protégé the chance to make some easy money by taking part in the corrupt bare-knuckle circuit.

Almost overnight, Shawn becomes a star brawler with a keen desire to win. But as his reputation grows, so do the stakes and the emerging star soon reaches a make or break decision.

In narrative style, Montiel’s film plays like the fight movies of the ’30s and ’40s and isn’t afraid to place his central characters to the fore. Tatum is an engaging presence and even gets to show his sensitive side by building an unlikely, and authentically awkward relationship with the equally appealing Zulay Henao.

While Howard serves up a reminder of the acting talent that helped land him an Oscar nomination for Hustle & Flow.

The contemporary element is delivered via a pumping soundtrack and some suitably jittery fight scenes, which feel refreshingly gritty and authentic and not overly choreographed. A bout in a Chinese pleasure palace is particularly memorable, with every smack-down likely to make viewers wince.

If there are criticisms, the film fails to make the most of its main villain, Brian White, while the final outcome is a little too predictable.

But thanks to Montiel’s firm grasp of his material, both as director and writer, as well as his obvious appreciation for the beats and rhythms of his native New York, this is a very appealing movie that’s well worth making the time to see.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 104mins
UK Release Date: May 15, 2009