Fighting (2009)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Channing Tatum, Terrence Howard, Luis Guzmán
Extras: Deleted Scenes, BD Live

Dito Montiel's aptly titled "Fighting" is your pretty standard underdog story, with nothing really new or innovative to offer. Channing Tatum stars as Shawn MacArthur, a homeless street vendor in New York who is pulled into the world of underground fighting by ticket scalper and hustler Harvey Boarden (Terrence Howard). Pitted against bigger and more experienced fighters, Shawn holds up and wins his matches, much to the surprise of Harvey's rival hustler, Martinez (Luis Guzmán). Shawn has a falling out with Harvey and develops a predictable but superfluous romance with a club waitress (Zulay Henao) before he is finally set up to fight professional boxer and former college rival Evan Hailey (Brian White) in a battle that will test both his physical and emotional strength.

With a plot we've seen done (more successfully) before, "Fighting" consistently feels like a patchwork of better movies without their excitement or rooting interest in character. The fight scenes, which for all intents and purposes are the standout features of this film, seem oddly detached and uninvolving. They are brutal and for the most part very realistic, but there is an almost numbing aspect to them. Watching them, I felt as jaded as the rest of the characters looked. Montiel and Robert Munic's script leaves the characters flat and with stereotypical back stories that are not worthy of the efforts Terrence Howard and Channing Tatum bring to their performances. Howard creates a gentle and sympathetic character who is always interesting to watch in spite of his poor dialogue. Tatum may not be a strong enough actor to overcome the dullness of his role, but he possesses an openness and vulnerability that warrant better material than he is usually given.

To its credit, the film is not boring, but its irritating familiarity and predictability fail to generate much interest either. It doesn't resonate on any level, even at its most violent. There are countless films of this ilk of varying quality available, and "Fighting" simply gets lost in the mix. The lead performances may be just good enough to keep it from being absolutely without merit, but a good film they do not make.

The Blu-ray disc from Universal features an excellent 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. The high definition 1080p image is clear and sharp, with some good film grain occasionally visible. Colors appear to be rendered well, and contrast is fine. Not reference quality by any measure, but this transfer showcases the movie at its best.

The DTS 5.1 Master Audio track is appropriately forceful and aggressive. The action scenes benefit from the realistic and well-distributed sound effects and ambience. The song score is also presented to good effect. Alternate French and Spanish 5.1 DTS tracks are available, with English (SDH), French, and Spanish subtitles.

An unrated version of the movie is included, lasting three minutes longer than the PG-13 cut. Nothing noticeably significant seems to be added. I imagine the fight scenes are probably a little more graphic, but it was not enough to make them exciting. A second disc with a digital copy of the unrated version is also included.

The only special features offered are eight minutes of deleted scenes, none of which are particularly interesting. Aside from that, the disc is BD-Live enabled. It seems Universal didn't care much for this title either.

"Fighting" is a so-so film that doesn't completely fail but nonetheless falls pretty close to the bottom. Universal's transfer is great, but nothing about this release calls out for attention.