The only exposure I had to Dito Montiel's 'Fighting' before sitting down to this Blu-ray review, was the trailer that played during my weekly Monday night wrestling show a few weeks before the film hit theaters. The ad made the film out to be little more than an adrenaline fest, and having now seen the final product, this is definitely a case of truth in advertising.
Shawn MacArthur (Channing Tatum) is a street hustler, selling fake iPods and bootleg Harry Potter novels, when he and his fighting abilities are first spotted by Harvey Boarden (Terrence Howard). It doesn't take much convincing for Boarden to get the young, streetwise MacArthur to join his stable of fighters, especially when he reveals the possible financial return. As the headstrong Shawn gets drawn deeper into the underground fighting league, he also fights to make ground with Zulay (Zulay Henao), a young beauty who is seemingly tied to his involvement with Boarden.
Much like 'Fight Club,' 'Fighting' was accused of being nothing more than an excuse to display vulgar aggression. Unlike 'Fight Club,' however, 'Fighting' doesn't delve deeper into the roots of the human psyche, nor does it present a thorough, engaging tale.
The story feels like a mishmash of half baked ideas and small plot themes that couldn't form a script on their own. The fighting sequences seem like one script, while the relationship between MacArthur and Boarden is another, and MacArthur and Zulay yet another. The film jumps back and forth between the plots, and in so doing, fails to form a cohesive, complete tale.
The fighting in 'Fighting' is fast paced and quite enjoyable, it's just a shame there are so few actual fights, and so little time is dedicated to the title theme of the film. We do get a subplot involving MacArthur and his anger issues, stemming from his paternal relationship, but they're never really explained satisfactorily. In fact, the handling of that theme is so sloppy that it should have been removed and saved for the deleted scenes segment of the extras, as it added nothing to the film but a few wasted minutes.
'Fighting' has a hard time fighting continuity as well, with bruises that disappear and reappear, increasing and decreasing in severity as well as healing nearly instantaneously on a few occasions. This shouldn't have bugged me as much as it did, but when the story is this sloppy, those little things become progressively more bothersome. Finally, Howard's performance may appeal to some, but I found it to be quite generic and lackadaisical, an adjective that describes the film as a whole.
'Fighting' beats up the competition on Blu-ray, presented in a VC-1 encode (at 1080P in the 1.85:1 frame) that does the film as much justice as any transfer could. In fact, this transfer will do the film a great number of justices, as it may offer that final nudge many potential buyers need to pick this title up.
Colors are sharp, with deep, deep blacks, and skin tones that are natural, though occasionally tinged with a bit of orange. The amount of detail on display is tremendous, with every inch of the film showing a superb amount of definition. The moles on Tatum's face pop right off...they're a dermatologist's dream! Textures vary gorgeously, as cardboard looks flimsy and worn, while clothing shows its wear and tear on many of the poorer characters, and many pieces of set decoration just scream, "look at how awesome I look!" Only a handful of shots (and even then, for only brief amounts of time) are soft, so they don't pull the picture down at all.
Edges are super clean, and there is no indication of any kind of post-production tampering like DNR. Aliasing is nowhere to be found, either. The film sports a fantastic three dimensional quality for the entire runtime, while the soft grain level never fluctuates, constantly providing some realism to the show. In short, while falling short of perfection, 'Fighting' looks like a million bucks.
If only the audio were as stellar as the video, we'd have ourselves another gold star to put next to 'Fighting's' name. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix provided falls short for a few reasons, despite being a seriously active track.
Dialogue is about as prioritized as the story, and by that I mean it's a passing thought, not a priority. The entire film has prioritization issues. Soundtrack constantly overpowers dialogue. Soundtrack dominates crowd sounds at fights. It doesn't help matters that the film spikes in volume, presenting the perilous issue of where to set the volume on one's receiver, loud enough where all the dialogue can be discerned, or soft enough that it won't get the neighbors to rally with pitchforks in hand.
The above mentioned soundtrack does a great job getting the film bumping, with solid bass rumbles and plenty of accents through the other channels. The sounds of the New York streets are a very strong presence, as the fronts and especially the rears constantly put us right in the middle of the city. I only wish these random bits of ambient noise would have been a bit louder compared to the soundtrack, as they're fairly impressive, with great directionality, though some less-than-seamless pans.
'Fighting' also comes with DTS 5.1 dub tracks in French and Spanish, and subtitle tracks for each language as well.
The extras package found on 'Fighting' isn't likely to convince anyone .
'Fighting' does a wonderful job in the few scenes that actually depict the film's namesake. The rest of the time, it's much akin having to hear a book on tape as read by a babbling fool. The audio would be somewhat improved if said fool were to have been involved in the sound mix. AS for the video, my goodness is it superb. Throw in some uninspired extras, and you have yourself a rental.
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