Tatum repeats past roles in ‘Fighting’




Rating: 5/10

After seeing “Fighting” expose the unseen world of high-class, bare-knuckle boxing, another gerund immediately came to mind: boring.

Sure, there are a few decently choreographed fight scenes here and there, but they unfortunately get buried in favor of the square-jawed mug of its pretty boy lead (Channing Tatum). Most of the pivotal points of the film rely on the blankly uncharismatic scowls of Tatum, followed by an extreme close-up of his six-pack. This may be the first time in the history of cinema in which an oblique has a lead role.

As the movie opens, we’re introduced to Shawn MacArthur (Tatum), a twenty-something street hood who sells knockoff iPods and Harry Potter books. Shawn has the atypical character traits of the average New York toughguy: He’s got beef with his father, can never swallow his pride and knows how to beat someone up. When swanky scammer Harvey (Terrance Howard) sees the kid engaged in fisticuffs, he offers to be his manager. Soon, Shawn is, oddly enough, “fighting” opponents for cash, et cetera, and learns life lessons while breaking noses and hearts along the way.

Some things go right, and some things go wrong. Howard, playing some shade of Ratso Rizzo by elongating every syllable coming from his whiny voice, has a great dynamic with his fighter. But there’s never any themes of sensei teaching student. His character doesn’t offer any intuition on how to jab or throw hooks; he just drips with sweat and intently watches his money being made.

When the fighting subsides (which is rare since there are about three scenes of action), the movie becomes a character study of a total lame duck. Girls will like Tatum for his good looks, guys will admonish him for being too soft. Nonetheless, Tatum proves again he can only play “the guy from the wrong side of the tracks” after taking his character from dance flick “Step Up” and rehashes it here. (Also see: “Stop-Loss,” “Coach Carter”). There’s only so many movies a guy can wear a wifebeater in.

“Fighting” feels like it comes from another decade. Its soundtrack is heavy on music that could be Apollo Creed’s workout music and New York’s inner city adds for an atmospheric feel. It’s a decent flick — last year’s “Never Back Down” is much better — but there’s just something missing. With no Mr. Miyagi, no endless supply of action and no life in the glazed-over eyes of its lead, “Fighting” can’t go all 10 rounds.