One of the great mysteries of Hollywood is how fine actors such as Terrence Howard and Luis Guzman end up in something as dreadful as Fighting. Also starring Channing Tatum, this is a movie without narrative pacing or flow. Most importantly, it is careless.
Tatum plays Shawn MacArthur, a guy down on his luck selling bootleg Harry Potter books on the street. Through a series of contrived events, he is discovered by an underground fight club promoter who sets up MacArthur’s first fight. He wins by luck, taking about six punches to his jaw and splitting open his lip in the process.
Mere hours later, Shawn sits in a club, his lip completely healed and a small mark resides on his chin. Impressive healing time.
Then again, Fighting doesn’t care about the small details or the big ones. Characters are thin, given limited back story. Shawn suffered a falling out with his father sometime in high school, but it is unclear why he ended up on the streets jobless and seemingly uneducated. He apparently never had a mother either.
Terrence Howard is Harvey Boarden, a character who typically serves as the mentor in this type of film, but is nothing more than a hustler. Much like Shawn, there is no character development to learn why he is in this situation. He is supposed to draw sympathy from the audience, but has little personality. Howard seems drunk throughout the role, slurring his speech, a far cry from his other award-worthy performances.
For a movie called Fighting, there is very little of it. In total, there are four fight scenes, only one of which carries any real choreography. These are street fights, and it is hard to make two completely inexperienced fighters visually compelling. They throw some punches, but director Dito Montiel knows how dull these battles are. Nearly all of them require some type of outside object being broken, because otherwise it is two men simply scrapping on the ground.
Only the last fight carries any build-up, and that is due to additional script contrivances. Evan Hailey (Brian J. White) began a feud with Shawn as a teenager, and in a “small world” turn of events, happened to join the same underground fighting ring in New York as Shawn. Of course, Shawn’s randomly chosen love interest Zulay (Zulay Henao) is also mixed in with the fighting.
Fighting is a film that has been made to capitalize on the current obsession with mixed martial arts, but misses the point. It is not about two people randomly stepping into the streets to fight. There is professionalism and respect inside the ring. The people in this movie are thugs, and the audience is supposed to be happy the lowlife fight gambler is rich in the end. It doesn’t work that way.
Numerous times during this VC-1 encode, it is no less than perfection. Stunning facial detail, immense depth, great blacks, vivid color, and accurate flesh tones are impossible to dismiss.
Unfortunately, not all close ups are created equal. In what seems to be a directorial choice, the camera is constantly out of focus. Even between two edits, one in which Tatum’s face is rife with detail, Zulay Henao’s face is a blurry mess when the camera moves to her.
The transfer always maintains a relative sharpness, and establishing shots of the city look superb. Likewise, the black levels and contrast are steady, creating an image that maintains its depth. It never loses that quality, but those shots that look off (and there are a lot of them) are truly terrible.
A fine DTS-HD Master track provides some superb street level ambiance. Cars, sirens, elevated trains, and more consistently fill the speakers. Cars move through the frame regularly, creating excellent immersion.
A loud soundtrack blares deep bass, and a club sequence loads all channels with music. Between all of this, dialogue is mixed naturally without missing a line. Oddly, the fights are somewhat mundane, mostly thanks to a realistic sound design that forgoes the usual low-end shots when punches connect.
Deleted scenes run about eight minutes, while D-Box support and generic BD-Live access finish off this rather terrible set of bonus features.