Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fighting (2009)

As quick, blunt, and economical as its title, Fighting goes through the motions with skill but little passion, in contrast to director Dito Montiel’s first film. That film is A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, a roughly assembled semi-autobiographical film that jumped about and occasionally missed the emotional mark, but was shot through with such vibrant passion that energized every edit and jolted the interactions into a state resembling a half-remembered fever dream of repulsively attractive nostalgia. That was a good movie. Fighting, on the other hand, is just a junk movie: reasonably well-made but unexciting. It just sat up there on the screen while I was profoundly indifferent.

It’s the story of a young man who gets sucked into a world of underground fighting in New York. That young man is played by Channing Tatum in yet another of his tough guys with wounded souls. He does it well again here – there’s something about his smooth rectangular face, with his eyes lost in the mass of flesh, that can project a wounded warrior – and has some nice moments with Terrence Howard who’s playing a self-described two-bit hustler. They rarely raise their voices, softly mumbling their way through the movie. There’s also a romantic interest provided by the pretty Zulay Henao, but the most interesting characters, such as they are, lurk around the edges. There’s Luis Guzman and Roger Guenveur Smith (a quintessential what's-his-name) as sleazy peers of Howard’s and an entertaining Altragracia Guzman as Henao’s grandmother; they do the best they can with the material given, but they remain only half-formed characters.

There’s no sizzle to the movie. It’s bland and formless, thoroughly uninteresting and unexciting in form and execution. As it played out, I found that I really only had one major complaint about the film: I simply didn’t care. It was competently shot, but the movie failed to make me care about the stakes. I had no interest in discovering what happened next. It became a dead piece of cinema to me, nothing more than a series of images and sounds. I didn’t hate it - it’s totally watchable - I just didn’t care.

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