The eternal battle between the hot-but-arrogant blond and the hot-and-likable brunet continues on new turf in the almost gleefully bad Never Back Down. This time, the contenders are shirtless guys and the field of play is mixed martial arts. When Jake (Faris, looking eerily like the young Tom Cruise), a teen with rage issues, moves from the Corn Belt to an Orlando high school where the cool kids are into underground fighting, he’s like new meat in a sun-drenched prison; he’s immediately scoped out by rich-kid asshole Ryan (Gigandet, distilled essence of handsome prick), who wants to beat Jake to a pulp.
You need not have seen Fight Club to spot the homoerotic subtext that wafts through this movie like a heavy dose of Axe man-perfume. Ryan and Jake shuck off their shirts and get sweaty at regular intervals, and Jake’s eagerness to keep going back for more beatings starts to seem a little, um, weird. But the target audience will be safely distracted by the kick-ass fighting, the pop-thrash soundtrack and the “profound” bits of dialogue (“In any fight, you can change your position. You just have to find a way,” intones trainer Hounsou). By the way, not to spoil it, but the hot-and-likable brunet wins.
Cast and crew