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Directed by Dito Montiel
With its swooping overhead shots of New York, set to a predictable but reliably funky soundtrack, Dito Montiel’s Fighting
promises to deliver another tourist’s fantasy about the grit and passion of life in the big city. Ten minutes in, though, one wonders if even Jerome Robbins could have injected enough sass and swagger to redeem this punily imagined paean to the streets — or at least to wake Channing Tatum up from his sleepwalking star turn. Playing a down-and-out Alabama transplant who achieves the American dream by kicking multi-ethnic ass in the city’s violent underbelly, the former Abercrombie model modulates between a total of two expressions: a blank, indifferent stare, and a gratingly self-satisfied grin. Of course it is for those who have already confused Tatum’s hulking physicality for genuine sex appeal, and his bumbling inarticulateness for boyish charm, that this genre exercise has been designed.
As a white guy who has proven he can blend in with his castmates of color (see Step Up
), Tatum may be a new poster-boy for our post-racial era. But that doesn’t keep Fighting
from packaging the stereotypes of one ethnic enclave after another for the audience’s delectation, or priding itself on counterfeit authenticity. The bare-knuckle fights our hero engages in for lavish sums of prize money fall flat as set-pieces, mainly because Tatum's opponents remain so faceless they barely rise to the status of caricature. Montiel is so torn between condemning the culture of violence and celebrating its capacity to confer wealth and stardom that he ends up simply shoving a bitter dose of survival-of-the-fittest down our throats. Weighed down by drab visuals, two unconvincing melodramatic subplots, and Terrence Howard (as Tatum’s scam-artist partner) on lazy-drawl autopilot, the film finally implodes from boredom with itself.