Facing opponents twice his size, Tatum needs all his determination to emerge intact, but with waitress Zulay Henao supplying the love-of-a-good-woman, well… need I go on? Still, if the movie has the body of a Jean-Claude Van Damme flick, it has the soul of, say, ‘Midnight Cowboy’, as if director Dito Montiel simply ignored the formula outline and filled in the margins with as much heart as the circumstances allowed.
Let’s be clear, this doesn’t make ‘Fighting’ anything approaching quality. But never mind the story, check the feel, as the camera seeks out scuzzy corners of New York, Tatum generates genuine sweetness in the romantic clinches and Howard plays his doomed small-time fixer as an exercise in bipolar melancholy. Meanwhile Henao’s Cuban granny Altagracia Guzman is a treasure and Roger Guenveur Smith provides Mr Big weirdness on a Walkenesque scale. A bit disappointing then to get back to chaps thumping each other, but the choreography’s decent enough. And if this lands idiosyncratic director Montiel a better script next time, it will all have been worth it.