Channing Tatum and Brian White in 'Fighting' (Rogue Pictures / Relaltivity Media)

"I believe in fate," murmurs the soft-spoken Shawn MacArthur, by way of explaining how he was positive that he'd run into beautiful single mother / cocktail waitress Zulay so soon after a fleeting encounter in the most populated city in the United States. But he might as well have said, "I believe in movies in which every step of the narrative is telegraphed well in advance, every character is numbingly familiar, every choreographed brawl is edited into unwatchable confusion, and a feisty, tiny, Spanish-speaking mother steals the show."

As played by Channing Tatum in Fighting, a low-key potboiler directed by Dito Montiel (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints), Shawn is a mysterious, brooding loner with downcast eyes that only light up when he's flailing away at an opponent with his hands, feet, or head. Shawn has somehow landed in New York City, evidently by fate, since we never learn why he headed to the Big Apple instead of, say, Cincinnati or Atlanta or Albuquerque.

Eventually, pieces of his back story emerge, but long before that happens, the two defining aspects of his personality are writ large: he's a nice guy with a wicked temper. One moment, he's politely holding an emergency gate open for an elderly lady in the subway and bemusedly indulging a long stream of cheats who quickly follow behind her. The next, he's flailing away at a gang of thieves intent on disrupting his fledgling street merchant "business" of selling scavenged items on a sidewalk.

The latter scene is where he catches the eye of two other characters who will, inevitably, become the most important people in his life: Terrence Howard as street hustler Harvey and Zulay Henao as Zulay, a woman trying to buy a children's book.