The writer/director Dito Montiel's sophomore effort presents a hackneyed story in a new way. Far from classic, it's worth a look.
The former hard core singer Dito Montiel earned good reviews a couple of years back for his autobiographical book and movie A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, the story of growing up in working class Queens, New York, and getting out of the neighbourhood before it claimed you for its own. His second film is disarmingly modest, a hackneyed story about a big lug (Channing Tatum) who comes to New York City with nothing and makes a score in the bare-knuckle fighting scene. This scenario would have felt old hat in a 1930s B movie. Still, it's not what you do - it's the way that you do it. Montiel has trimmed back his artier instincts, but Fighting shares with its predecessor a vividly real and affectionate street hustler's perspective on New York. You can tell he knows what he's talking about from the way he shows how a hastily arranged illegal bout degenerates into a riot after the onlookers start raining punches on the pugilists. Montiel's Big Apple has bite. Terrence Howard is effective as the unexpectedly sympathetic fix-it man who takes Tatum's unschooled bruiser under his wing, and Roger Guenveur Smith steals several scenes as Jack Dancing, a bigshot gambler. As for the bare-knuckle scenes, they're loud, raw and brutal. It's never going to be mistaken for a classic, but within its weight class, Fighting wins on points.