For all of the traditional complaints lodged against film critics -- too pointy-headed, too snooty, unable to enjoy a movie on the level of the simple pleasures it may present -- I worry that what I'm about to say may harm my standing in the field; namely, I liked Never Back Down. No, it's not The Battle of Algiers or Jules et Jim; it's a movie where good-looking 20-somethings playing good-looking teens offer American moviegoers the exciting prospect of Mixed Martial Arts action without the daunting possibility they might have to read subtitles. It's far below the fights-and-fury quality of Donnie Yen's Flash Point, another MMA action flick opening in limited release as Never Back Down splashes up on movie screens across America. And yet, Never Back Down seems to know what it is, and executes the rote and required moments in a film like this -- a template set by movies like The Karate Kid and Rocky and a dozen others -- with a certain amount of style and exuberance. Never Back Down revolves around good-looking people beating the holy hell out of each other; it doesn't pretend to be much more than that, and while the pleasures it offers are modest, it nonetheless delivers them.
categories Reviews, Cinematical