FIGHTING is an unexpected form of bad

PUBLISHED: 11:59 15 May 2009 | UPDATED: 16:11 07 September 2010

Never make assumptions. Judging from the supremely unenticing title and a trailer that suggested a generic punch em up with all the depth and insight of a Dolph Lundgren movie, I went in certain of having a very bad time. Instead, I get a piece steeped

Never make assumptions. Judging from the supremely unenticing title and a trailer that suggested a generic punch 'em up with all the depth and insight of a Dolph Lundgren movie, I went in certain of having a very bad time.

Instead, I get a piece steeped in the attitudes and style of 70s cinema, a character piece that tries to fuse Midnight Cowboy and Rocky.

It is still a bad film, but it was an entirely different bad film to the one I was expecting.

Shawn (Tatum) is a strapping lad trying to make his way on the streets of New York who runs into down on his luck hustler Harvey (Howard).

On the most skimpy of evidence Harvey decides that he has what it takes to make it in the world of illegal, no-holds-barred, bare-knuckle brawling and starts to fix up fights for him.

There are no Twin Towers and everybody has mobiles, but this feels like a pre-Guiliani Big Apple. The soundtrack is certainly working under the assumption that it is accompanying a blaxploitation movie.

Throughout there's something just a little off about this movie - Shawn never really convinces as a pugilist and flukes his first victory. His second bout takes place in the backyard behind a convenience store against an opponent who looks like a gigantic version of Mini-me.

All the time I was half expecting some kind of twist, that it was all a dream. This disconcerting feeling extends to the characters. Howard is a charismatic performer but in his eagerness to make something of his role he tries too hard; erratic sentence stress is no substitute for a good character.

Tatum though is the workhorse, the one who has to carry the movie, the one who's aiming to become a star. He looks somehow to be a fusion of every young movie actor who ever got to be dubbed the New James Dean.

His role is that time-honoured testing ground for the rising star - the inarticulate good-hearted brute in a white T-shirt. But he blows it, coming across as a smart kid earnestly acting dumb.

Fighting (15)

Director Dito Montiel Starring Channing Tatum, Terrence Howard, Luis Guzman, Zulay Henao, Brian White. 104 mins

Three stars


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