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Shawn MacArthur is a nice guy who can't seem to catch a break. Or at least a break that doesn't involve his nose and someone else's fist. He attempts to scrape out a meager living selling counterfeit best-sellers and second-hand umbrellas on Manhattan's streets. But even that ends up with someone stealing his wares and throwing punches.
Then a down-and-out Broadway ticket hustler named Harvey sees the young guy's left hook and suggests that they team up.
Harvey has a few connections with a local crime syndicate that regularly stages no-holds-barred fights for a select group of big-money gamblers. So he promises to open the right doors. All Shawn has to do is keep punching people's lights out.
The money mounts up as Shawn starts out with a whopper of a winning streak (by luck or by pluck). But then two people throw him for a loop: a former friend who could be his fiercest foe, and a pretty young waitress who might just KO him like no one else can. Where else could all this be leading to but an all-or-nothing match that will determine if Shawn is a king-of-the-underworld champ or a kicked-to-the-curb chump?
For a guy who makes his money pounding strangers in the head with his bare knuckles, Shawn is a surprisingly nice, boy-next-door kind of guy. He develops a quick crush on single mom Zulay and interacts with her and her family in a shy, gentlemanly way. When he finds out that she's been struggling to pay her rent, he offers to help out.
Shawn also holds himself to a certain code of conduct. When told to throw a fight, he refuses, saying, "Only way I'm gonna lose is if somebody beats me."
Zulay, for her part, is a sweet, hardworking young woman who takes care of her daughter, Lila, and elderly grandmother. (Lila's absent dad is never mentioned.)
The relationship between Harvey and Shawn is strained at times. Harvey is a practiced street hustler who appears to take advantage of Shawn's naiveté. But in the end the two pull for one another and their friendship wins out.
Zulay and Shawn kiss passionately and fall on her bed. He pulls up her T-shirt. (The camera sees her bare waist.)
Harvey points out to one of his guys that the Asian woman he's flirting with isn't really a woman. In a bar, a slinky gal sits next to Shawn and seductively runs her hands over his chest. (He ignores her.) In one fight location, a wall is adorned with a reprint of a classic nude painting that shows the female subject's backside and part of her breast.
Throughout the film, women—whether at parties, clubs or on the street—wear formfitting clothes that include short skirts, tight tank tops and low-cut shirts. Shawn is seen shirtless several times during fights and when crawling out of bed.
This is a fight film. So there are numerous scenes that show men pounding each another with fists, feet, elbows and knees. The back-alley gladiators painfully smash into walls, through doors and windows, and over furniture and workbenches. Some of the more excruciating-looking blows include a man smashing his head full-force into a porcelain water fountain. Another features a brawler being picked up from a prone position and slammed down on his back. And another scrapper has his head and face repeatedly smashed into a splintering window. During one bout a female spectator pulls a pistol out of her purse and shoots, clipping a guy's ear with the bullet.
Amidst this cavalcade of beat downs, though, there's "miraculously" little blood flow. In fact, physical damage from all this pummeling is so light—Shawn only gets a bloody lip and a few facial scrapes for all his abuse—that it'll make quite a lot of people think street fights and "manly" melees must be pretty romantic.
Crude or Profane Language
Nearly 20 s-words. Milder exclamations include "a--," "d--n," "h---" and "b--ch." God's name is carelessly interjected a couple of times. There's a rude reference made to male genitals.
Drug and Alcohol Content
People drink wine, beer and hard alcohol in several party and club scenes. A man tosses back shots of vodka. When Harvey catches Shawn sleeping on a park bench, he compares him to a crackhead. People also smoke cigarettes.
Other Negative Elements
It's said that when he was in high school, Shawn punched his dad. The term niggardly is seemingly mispronounced to give it a racist connotation. Gambling is the sole reason street fighting exists.
Bare knuckle street fighting films generally have a skull-thumping, brutal pointlessness about them that makes me wonder who would really want to see them. Or how they get funded in the first place. But those questions, though applicable, are the least of Fighting's problems.
First, there's an unfinished roughness about this film that's hard to explain considering its wide-release status. The acting is so blotchy and scenes so piecemeal—with the boom mic bobbing in and out of the frame—that it feels more improvised than scripted. And the threadbare story doesn't fare much better. Maybe writer/director Dito Montiel had to devote so much time to the movie's choreographed grapple-and-thwack fight segments that he needed to quickly wrap up everything else in a series of get-this-thing-finished single takes. Whatever the problem, the end product will most likely please few.
The movie doesn't have the dark, gritty viciousness of Fight Club or the gory horror of Gangs of New York or the comic slickness (or monkey) of Every Which Way But Loose. So even those looking for some sort of violent street fighting fix will be wondering where else they should have spent their hard-earned cash.
There is one moment about midway through this deflated punching bag that is worth mentioning, though. It's when Zulay invites her bruised hero over to her apartment for a bite to eat. The leisurely scene is surprisingly charming and even a bit romantic as Zulay's broken-English speaking grandma keeps protectively interrupting the potential lovebirds and ultimately shoos Shawn back out into the late-night streets.
If that scene had been the centerpiece of a completely different movie—a romantic comedy, perhaps, that focused on the strength and humor of a loving family—then this could possibly have been something worth watching.
But it wasn't.
And so all that's left are drooping boom mics and brain-busting fisticuffs.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Channing Tatum as Shawn MacArthur; Terrence Howard as Harvey Boarden; Zulay Henao as Zulay Valez; Brian White as Evan Hailey
Dito Montiel ( )