Cover Art and Menus: 6/10
Well this is a fighting movie, and the cover features the main characters with gloves on, ready to either kick ass or get kicked. There are palm trees in the background, and Amber Heard in a bikini. Kind of the opposite of a chick flick, so it panders towards males. In particular, it panders towards younger males, so I guess the cover fits the bill. It really is not great, but it seems to cover all the angles for a popular youth oriented dude film.
The menu is a fuzzy looking montage of fight scenes from the film over guitar driven music. Again, not great, but expected.
The Extended Beat Down Edition of Never Back Down is chock full of extras. First of all the DVD presents both the Beat Down version of the film, and the theatrical version. The Beat Down Edition is, as it is explained before the movie begins, is a remix of sorts of the original version. The audio is cranked up to include more sounds of the fights, and it is supposed to be more intense.
Also included are some rather so-so deleted scenes,a few short features, and an audio commentary featuring director Jeff Wadlow, actor Sean Farris, and writer Chris Hauty. The shorts include Mix It Up: Bringing MMA to the Big Screen, which is about 10 minutes of interviews with the cast and the crew on how the fighting in the movie was created. They go into depth about training, choreography, and the style of MMA fights. Also included is the short Blow by Blow, which goes even further in describing the fight scenes, as it is a commentary of the major fights in the movie, broken down by the director and choreographer. It is a really interesting extra, and well worth a watch.
Finally, there are some rather throw-away shorts, that include Star Power, which is a very short collection of training video of Djimon Hounsou as he prepared for the movie with his personal trainer. Also there is The Thrill of the Fight, which demonstrates the MMA background and history of the movie’s stunt coordinator, which while impressive, isn’t really needed. And finally there is a 2 minute Training the Cast feature, which has the actors discussing their experiences with MMA.
Overall not a bad selection of extras if you are into the MMA fighting, and like the movie itself. They were enjoyable for the most part, and the Blow by Blow short was excellent, and well worth a watch.
Never Back Down is the modern day version of the Karate Kid, and they are not afraid to say so, as on the back of the box a review indicates that the movie is part Karate Kid, part Fight Club, and a lot of the O.C. I have never sat through a full O.C. show, so I will just have to take their word for that part, but the other two descriptions are spot on. This is the Karate Kid story mixed with a modern version of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts for those of you not in the know), with a Fight Club style, slick visual. That is not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion.
Never back down is shot to be pretty, and by saying that I mean that the style itself is very glamorous. Buff guys without shirts on, hot girls near the beach, and lots of glistening sweat and sun. It is an MTV style of movie, where everyone is attractive, and the story itself is a bit lean.
Jake (Sean Farris) is initially presented as a football playing hothead, who loses his cool and fights an opposing player during a game. The fight is apparently not his first, and it lands him in hot water with his single mother, who is at her wits end. It just so happens that the family is moving from Nebraska to Florida, where Jake’s little brother will be attending a tennis school.
As soon as Jake gets to the new high school, he attempts to intervene in what he thinks is actual fight between two kids, when he discovers that it is a makeshift sort of fight club, or fight training. The ringleader of the group Ryan (Cam Gigander) notices Jake from video of his football beatdown, which has made its way across the internet. Soon Ryan, through his girlfriend Baja (Amber Heard) tricks Jake into coming to Ryan’s party, where he basically challenges Jake to a fight. Jake, being goaded into fighting, ends up being no match for Ryan, who just so happens to be an MMA local hero. Jake is ultimately knocked out and humiliated. Baja ends up feeling bad about basically tricking Jake into getting beat-up, and they begin a (very shallow) romantic connection (in my opinion this relationship should have been developed more, as Amber Heard was not in the movie enough to do more than occasionally bite her lip. She was good in her role, and should have been given more time on screen).
Jake does end up befriending Max (Evan Peters), who introduces him to MMA trainer John Roqua (Djimon Hounsou), who takes Jake under his wing and tries to teach Jake that MMA is not about revenge, but about focus. The inclusion of Djimon Hounsou really added some credibility to this movie, and really helped me connect with this otherwise teenage cast. His inclusion as the Mr. Miyagi figure was a welcome addition to an otherwise teenage supermodel cast (I mean honestly, have you seen MMA fighters – most are too tough looking to be considered for the latest Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue).
Anyway, the rest of the movie deals with Jake reigning in his anger, becoming more involved with his family, and adjusting to life at his new school. This finally ends with Jake having to (shockingly) fight Ryan, as was predicted from the first ass-kicking at the party.
Never Back Down was not a movie that requires a lot of thinking, but it isn’t supposed to. This is a fight movie that you have seen before, but it was really pretty fun to watch. There is nothing new here, but there doesn’t really need to be. Never Back Down was a decent popcorn film that delivers on all of the levels that a fight movie is supposed to deliver. It is not a great movie, but it is fun.
Video & Audio Blu-Ray Version: (By Ascully) 9/10
The standard DVD was excellent, and the scenes were crisp and colorful. I was very impressed at the transfer, and even though many scenes were shot at night, the colors and the contrast was brilliant. There was little or not washout during the darker scenes, and overall this was a great video presentation.
The audio was excellent also. I am not sure just how much more intense the Beat Down version of the film really was, but the audio from the fight scenes was bright and amazing. The 5.1 surround sound system got a workout on this movie, and I was very pleased throughout.
I (Ascully) decided to look at the Blu-Ray version seeing as Squid doesn’t have the new fangled Blu-Ray player in his den. As usual the Blu-Ray version looked pristine and sounded amazing, this being the Beat Down edition of the movie the sound mix was cranked aggressively. This really makes the DTS-Master audio track shine its a night and day difference over the standard DVD soundtrack.
I didn’t really mind watching Never Back Down, and perhaps I was just in the mood for a guy film where there was fighting and fun. This film is very predictable, and you have seen this story about a thousand times, but it was still great fun. I would recommend it to anyone who liked the Karate Kid and Fight Club, both of which were better than Never Back Down, but it is worth a rental for a Friday night, mindless popcorn movie. The best thing I can say is that I had fun watching it, which is never a bad thing.