The Thunderbolt staff seems to be on a mission to review every movie Channing Tatum has ever done, so I took one for the team and watched “Fighting,” his 2009 film about underground street fighting. Despite starring Tatum, Terrence Howard and Luis Guzman, I’m guessing most people have never heard of this movie. There’s a good reason for that.
Tatum can fight, as he did impressively in Steven Soderbergh’s “Haywire” in 2011. Unfortunately, the fighting, and pretty much everything else about this movie, is a joke.
Directed by Dito Montiel based on a screenplay by himself and Robert Munic, “Fighting” is the story of Sean MacArthur (Tatum), a young hustler who sells counterfeit goods on the streets of New York City.
One morning while hocking fake Harry Potter books on a corner adjacent to Radio City Music Hall, MacArthur gets in a fight with several men who try to rob him. Not wanting to attract the attention of the police, MacArthur flees. In the process, however, he is noticed by Harvey Boarden (Howard), a veteran street hustler, ticket scalper and, as we learn, underground fight promoter.
Soon after, the two men run into each other in a café and Boarden asks MacArthur if he’d like to make $5,000 for a fight. MacArthur agrees, and a few days later Boarden escorts him to Brooklyn for his first bout.
Bad movies about fighting make one appreciate good movies about fighting that much more. So, at the expense of violating the first two rules of Fight Club, I should mention I have never been more appreciative of that movie than while watching this one.
The fights in this film go on to violate every one of Tyler Durden’s other six rules. The result is absurd and laughably bad. Like in Fight Club, the brawls are bare knuckle, but there are no rules – scratching, biting and anything else you can think of is allowed. There is no ring or octagon; fights take place in the middle of a crowded roomful of people.
The fight scenes are terribly choreographed, shot and edited, using a sort of blurring camera effect to disguise the fact that none of the actors can actually fight.
MacArthur wins his first bout after his opponent runs into a drinking fountain and is knocked unconscious. Afterward, he goes to a nightclub where he meets a cute waitress, Zulay (played by an actress of the same name, Zulay Henao), who he becomes interested in. He also runs into an old acquaintance, Evan (Brian White), a professional fighter with whom he clearly has bad blood.
Up to this point, we know very little about MacArthur’s background. All we know is that he had been to college, which is surprising given his manner of speaking, vocabulary and grammar, all which are more street hustler than ivory tower. He is supposedly from Birmingham, Ala., but has no southern accent.
It is when Zulay does a Google search on MacArthur that we learn details of his background and the events that led him to his life in New York. Those details, however, are all too mundane. A couple more fights for increasingly high stakes lead MacArthur to a final confrontation with Evan and with his past.
For some reason, people are supposedly betting hundreds of thousands of dollars on this unsanctioned, unlicensed, unregulated street fight with no referee. Presumably in Dito Montiel’s universe, there is no UFC or boxing on TV.
Reaching heights of absurdity, before the final fight Boarden is negotiating with some gangsters on the purse for MacArthur’s fight and declares, “He’s the biggest draw in this town!” A dubious claim, to say the least.
If you want to watch a good movie about fighting, rent Gavin O’Connor’s “Warrior.” If you insist on watching Channing Tatum crack skulls, stick with “Haywire.”
“Fighting” is rated PG-13.