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Small-town boy Shawn MacArthur (Channing Tatum) knows firsthand that every day in New York City is a struggle to survive. So when scam artist Harvey Boarden (Terrence Howard) gives him a chance to be something more in the brutal underground world of bare-knuckle street-fighting, Shawn decides that he has something worth fighting for and puts everything on the line to win. Every knockout brings him closer to the life he's always wanted, but also traps him in a dangerous web he can't escape.
For more about Fighting and the Fighting Blu-ray release, see Fighting Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on August 17, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: Dito Montiel
Writers: Robert Munic, Dito Montiel
Starring: Channing Tatum, Terrence Howard, Brian J. White, Luis Guzmán, Zulay Henao, Michael Rivera
» See full cast & crew
Fighting Blu-ray Review
Kick! Punch! It's all in the mind!
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, August 17, 2009
I'm not prone to falling asleep during movies, but half way through Stephen Sommers' G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra -- the latest two-hour toy commercial to hit theaters this summer -- I desperately needed a hard slap in the face or, at the very least, an injection of concentrated caffeine. But it wasn't just the film itself that lulled me into unconsciousness, it was its leading man: Channing Tatum. His glassy-eyed gaze and knuckle-dragging delivery were only the beginning... soon emotionless exchanges and tiresome action sequences left me chuckling at the young actor's inability to step outside of his kung-fu-grip trappings to create a believable human being. So it was that I approached director Dito Montiel's insipidly titled Fighting (a film I admittedly had zero interest in seeing) with the lowest expectations I could muster. I'd already heard rumblings that it was little more than a soulless exercise in cliché regurgitation, as well as complaints that its script amounted to a screenwriter's version of 52-card pickup, but I assumed its leading man would make matters much worse.
Imagine my surprise then when Tatum turned out to be one of Fighting's saving graces. Breezy, natural, and charming, his performance is strong enough to make a cynic like myself forget just how predictable and derivative the rest of the film actually is. Almost.
When a kind-hearted, well-intentioned street hustler named Shawn MacArthur (Channing Tatum) offers his fists and fury to a con artist named Harvey Boarden (Terrence Howard), he finds himself battling a variety of opponents in underground street fights orchestrated by one of Harvey's competitors (Luis Guzman) and a shady businessmen (Roger Guenveur Smith). As he begins to make a name for himself and earn his feisty handler some much-needed cash, Shawn falls for a single mother named Zulay (Zulay Henao), clashes with a former rival (The Shield's Brian J. White), and has to come to terms with his own demons. But in true genre style, it all comes to a head when Shawn is backed into a corner and forced to reevaluate everything he once held dear. Can he overcome his fears and face an old enemy in the ring (erm... or on a wealthy entrepreneur's penthouse balcony)? Can he look past Zulay's tattered past and love her for who she is? Can he prove his worth to everyone who doubts him?
Of course, these questions (and more) are chained to painfully obvious answers, answers that neatly map out the entire film from beginning to end. To his credit, Montiel makes a valiant effort to conceal the rubber-stamped plot threads and conventional characters that populate his utterly uninspired genre pic. He's even assembled a fine cast who clearly have the requisite talent to achieve his vision. However, in the process of wrapping his scenes in naturalistic performances and ad-libbed exchanges, Montiel merely replicates the trappings of an indie game-changer... he rarely produces his own. His villains are finger-pointing caricatures, his screenplay is wobbly and occasionally incoherent, and his characters' motivations are weak, vague, and terribly underdeveloped. The result is an oft-times bland and banal non-starter; a trivial, connect-the-dots disappointment that's all-too-content mining material from influences like Rocky and its ilk.
That being said, Fighting isn't a complete waste of time. Tatum (proving any criticism of G.I. Joe should be placed squarely on Sommers' shoulders) infuses his young protagonist with an aw-shucks likability that makes Montiel's most laughable lines more digestible, Howard and his young supporting cast bring a welcome helping of gravitas and credibility to their characters, and the fight scenes, despite being a surprisingly small part of the proceedings, are hard-hitting and involving. Is it great cinema? Far from it. Does it redefine or reinvigorate its genre? Not at all. Did I think it would be a lot worse? Definitely. If you can manage to overlook Montiel's adherence to convention and ignore the problematic aspects of his screenplay, Fighting might just be worth a rental. If you can't... I'd suggest moving along and finding better films to add to your collection.
Fighting Blu-ray, Video Quality
I've been particularly impressed with Universal's efforts of late and Fighting is no exception. Boasting a strong and faithful 1080p/VC-1 transfer, the film -- yep, even its shaky-cam fight scenes -- serves up vibrant splashes of color, inky blacks, gorgeous skintones, and striking fine details. Tiny, individual hairs bristle on the back of Tatum's neck and the brim of his nose, every pore and fleck of stubble is clearly visible on Howard's face, and clothing is brimming with crisp stitching and textures. The down-n-dirty fight sequences have to contend with intentionally soft shots, but they're never legitimate distractions (unless you're a frazzled reviewer attempting to take a sharp, in-fight screenshot... then the lightning-fast strikes and tight close-ups can be maddening). Besides, the instances in which clarity takes a hit should be attributed to Montiel's camerawork, not the technical transfer. Nearly every conversation, quiet exchange, and streetside encounter delivers all the high definition goodness a stringent videophile could want, oftentimes moreso than they'll expect.
It helps that the image is proficient and stable. Aside from some errant noise and faint crush that briefly disrupts a few nighttime shots, the presentation doesn't suffer from any significant artifacting, edge enhancement, noise reduction, or aliasing. In fact, a moderate veneer of grain is apparent in every scene, lending Fighting a fairly attractive, filmic appearance. In all, it represents another fine transfer from Universal; one that shouldn't leave fans or newcomers with much, if anything, to complain about.
Fighting Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Blu-ray edition of Fighting features a solid DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track as well. While it often reserves its sonic swagger for the film's fight scenes and percussion-heavy musical score, dialogue (despite some actors' persistent mumbling) is relatively clean and well-prioritized, LFE output is bold and assertive, and rear speaker activity, while a bit inconsistent, is confident and aggressive. More importantly, directionality is notably precise, establishing an enveloping soundfield that actively draws listeners into the crowded backstreets and nightclubs of New York City. I was also pleased with the film's subdued scenes, particularly those that take place in Zulay's apartment and Harvey's building. Interior acoustics are thoroughly convincing, realistic environmental ambience enhances nearly every exterior sequence, and the hum of traffic and the chatter of passersby are always intact.
Unfortunately, I had to man my remote throughout the film, dropping the volume a bit any time a fight would break out, and bumping it back up whenever Montiel would return his focus to his chatty cast. It isn't a major problem, but it is a slight issue night-owls should be aware of before tossing Fighting in after the kiddies have gone to bed. All in all, it's a fierce track that, minor nitpicks aside, will satisfy casual and discerning fans alike.
Fighting Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Sadly, the only supplemental content that appears alongside the theatrical and unrated cuts of Fighting is an eight-minute reel of character-centric deleted and alternate scenes (in high definition). Granted, I wasn't a big fan of the flick itself, but an audio commentary or production documentary might have softened my heart a bit. The Blu-ray edition also includes a Digital Copy disc, D-Box Motion Control support, and BD-Live functionality.
Fighting Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I'm sure Fighting will appeal to quite a few genre junkies, especially those who don't mind watching their favorite films rehashed again and again. Me? I'd rather toss Rocky (or another classic) into my Blu-ray player than spend more time with Montiel's shaky screenplay and flat-footed dialogue. Ah well, at least Universal has produced a solid disc. While its supplemental package leaves a lot to be desired, its stunning video transfer and excellent DTS-HD Master Audio track will keep fans cheering through the credits. My advice? Give it a rent and see if the film appeals to your sensibilities. If it does, wait for the price to drop and pick this one up on sale.
Fighting: Other Editions
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Fighting Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Fighting Unrated BD for August 25 - June 23, 2009
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced that it will release 'Fighting' on Blu-ray on August 25, day-and-date with the DVD. It will come in a BD50 and include both the theatrical cut and an unrated cut with "even more ferocious fighting". Video will ...
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