Movie review by
James Rocchi, Common Sense Media
Fighting Movie Poster Image
Street-fighting saga is stylish but cliched and violent.
  • PG-13
  • 2009
  • 105 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie has underlying messages about self-reliance, honor, and character -- but since the film takes place in the world of illegal street-fighting, there's a disconnect between the characters' purpose and the sometimes-brutal action. New York's neighborhoods are depicted using broad ethnic stereotypes -- Brooklyn is full of Russian Jews, Chinatown full of caricatured Asian gangsters, the Bronx teeming with cliched Latinos, etc.


Non-stop bare-knuckle brawling -- including grappling, punching, wrestling moves, kicks, punches, and more. Characters are shown bloodied and beaten after fights. Some gunplay; a supporting character is shot in the ear. The infamous "sleeper hold" is used repeatedly.


Some kissing and cleavage; some suggestive talk about transvestites. Kissing leads to what must be sex; the deed isn't shown, but it's implied via a cut to characters cuddling and getting dressed.


Language includes "ass," "s--t," "dick," "nuts," "bitch," "oh my God," and "a--hole." References are made to "white boys," and the "N" word is used once.


Brands mentioned or featured on screen include Mercedes, Everlast, and International House of Pancakes.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink hard liquor and beer and smoke cigars and cigarettes. Characters go to bars. "Crackhead" is used as an insult.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this mediocre action drama about illegal street fighting is (suprise!) quite violent, with lots of brawling and some blood. There's a simmering romantic-sexual subplot, too, but the movie spends a lot more time on characters punching each other than on kissing. Although the movie has an underlying "follow your dream and never quit" message, it's hard to reconcile that with the illegal, brutal world it takes place in. Expect some broad ethnic stereotypes, strong language (including "s--t"), drinking, and smoking.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 7, 10, 12, and 14-year-old Written byjear1106 May 2, 2009
This movie is all around terrible. Good actors, bad acting. There is really no plot, and the horrific dialog made me burst out laughing. The movie is about a... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bybananalover March 13, 2011
i think this movie is totally awesome! i love channing tatum
Teen, 14 years old Written byspickolick April 29, 2009
I just didn't like it. The entire theater was bored with it. Chenning Tatum is hot and that's really the only reason I went to go see it in the first... Continue reading

What's the story?

In FIGHTING, hustling youth Shawn McArthur (Channing Tatum) is trying to get by on New York's mean streets when his scuffle with a group of robbers catches the eye of Harvey (Terrence Howard), a manager-promoter-conniver who takes Shawn under his wing. Harvey enters Shawn in the illegal world of back-alley, bare-knuckle brawling, where the payoff is thousands if you win -- and nothing if you don't. As Shawn moves up the ladder as a fighter, he's offered bigger and bigger purses -- and asked to throw fights. Will Shawn's principles see him all the way to a final bout with a nemesis from his past (Bryan White) -- or will he knuckle under and take part in a sham?

Is it any good?

Opening with a '70s-styled montage, Fighting hints that it might be more than just another fights-and-fury action film. Howard's work as wheedling, cajoling Harvey also adds to the retro feel. Unfortunately, an ace soundtrack and sterling character acting aren't enough to make Fighting much more than a series of poorly shot fight sequences strung together with cliches.

The script is as underdeveloped as Tatum's muscles are well-developed; viewers don't get much insight into what motivates Shawn to take and dispense brutal beatings, and we don't really glimpse why he feels like this is the only way he can make money -- or even what he needs to make money for. Fighting is actually structured uncannily like a video game -- down to the series of increasingly difficult fights against tougher and tougher opponents and the finale against the most difficult opponent, who shares a past connection with Shawn. Director Dito Montiel tries to fill the film with scrappy, funky flavor, but Fighting's so comfortable in its mediocrity that it actually bores you with its barrage of blows.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the appeal of fighting as a sport. Is it the desire to see athletic excellence in action or something more primal? 

  • Does this kind of violence have more or less impact than explosions and gun battles? Why?

  • Families can also talk about the conflicts Shawn faces, as well as the bond he forms with his handler/manager.

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love action and sports

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