Never Back Down
Set against the action-packed world of Mixed Martial Arts, Never Back Down is the story of Jake Tyler, a tough kid who leads with his fists, and, often, with his heart. Jake Tyler, played by Sean Faris, is the new kid in town with a troubled past. He has recently moved to Orlando,Florida with his family who has relocated to support his younger brother’s shot at a professional tennis career. Jake was a star athlete on the football team at home, but in this new city he is an outsider with a reputation for being a quick tempered brawler.
Making an attempt to fit in, at the invitation of a flirtatious classmate, Baja (Amber Heard), Jake goes to a party where he is unwittingly pulled into a fight with a bully named Ryan McCarthy (Cam Gigandet). While he is defeated and humiliated in the fight, a classmate introduces himself to Jake and tells him about the sport known as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). He sees a star in Jake and asks that he meet with his mentor, Jean Roqua, played by Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, In America).
It is immediately apparent to Jake that MMA is not street fighting, but rather an art form he wants to master. Roqua will take Jake under his wing, but it is up to Jake to find the patience, discipline, willingness and reason within him to succeed. For Jake, there is much more at stake than mere victory. His decision will not just settle a score; it will define who he is.
This story uses a bit of recycled “Rocky” plot lines, including the one from “Rocky 3” when Rocky wins a race on the beach at the end of training against his former foe-turned-coach Apollo Creed. In this case, the trainer is Jean Roqua, played convincingly by Djimon Hounsou. The underdog is Jake Tyler (Sean Faris) who loses a fight to Ryan McCarthy (Cam Gigandet) and is seeking to prove his worth by facing McCarthy again. The story is believable enough and works ok, but the strong language and underage drinking, in addition to the violence, prevents us from awarding our Dove Seal to the film. Several very scantily clad young women dressed in bikinis also rates a two in our nudity rating, just missing the three mark which would also have caused us not to award our Seal to the film. “Rocky 3” received our Dove Seal. Unfortunately, “Never Back Down” needed to be less bold in the content area.