Never Back Down review

Brawling teens set up their own Fight Club in this Karate Kid wannabe about a put-upon youth (Sean Faris) who learns the mysteries of mixed martial arts in order to visit some righteous payback on a school bully (Cam Gigandet). From the blonde beauty who comes between them (Mandy Lane’s Amber Heard) to the grizzled trainer with the tragic back story (Djimon Hounsou), Jeff Wadlow’s film may be derivative but it happily wears its influences like a badge of honour. (“Was that your ‘Grasshopper’ speech?” asks Faris after listening to one of his mentor’s many lectures.) But what it lacks in originality, Never Back Down more than makes up for with bruising hand-to-hand fights that leave its rising star’s Tom Cruise features looking like so much pummelled meat. Eat your heart out, Tyler Durden.

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