Never Back Down Movie Poster Image

Never Back Down

Bloody fight film has heart, but it's no champion.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 113 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Teens videotape others while they fight, sometimes cheering them on, even though one or both could end up severely injured. One character relishes hurting others. But there are also some great examples of loyalty and friendship, as well as a supportive sibling relationship. And Jake learns the value of walking away from fights.


A barrage of brawls that leave participants bloodied and, in some cases, severely injured. Lots of close-ups of kicks and punches and their bloody aftermath. The big climax is a major "beat down."


Some kissing and sexual innuendoes. Some skimpy outfits.


"Bulls--t," "ass," and "bitch." Some trash talk during fights.


Mentions of YouTube, logos for Pepsi and Mustang GT. Students are shown toting around iPhones and digital cameras.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

At a party, teens are shown holding red plastic cups, implying that they're drinking beer. In another scene, an adult offers teenagers a drink.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this action-drama is very much a fight film -- it's filled with brutal, gory scenes of men (and women, too) engaged in physical combat. They punch, kick, and choke each other, and there's plenty of cuts, bruises, and blood. There's also some swearing ("s--t," "bitch") and underage drinking (though viewers don't see actual liquor, the red plastic cups the teens hold are clearly full of alcohol). In many scenes, women and men wear nothing but bikinis and swim trunks, and there's some kissing and a little innuendo.

What's the story?

After his father dies in a car accident, leaving him saddled with survivor's guilt, high school student Jake Tyler (Sean Faris) is barely able to control his rage. A move from Iowa to Florida with his mother and brother offers him a fresh start, but it's quickly ruined when the school's top brawler, Ryan (Cam Gigandet), baits Jake into an ugly fight that he loses -- miserably. Enter Jean Roqua (Djimon Hounsou), the mixed-martial arts guru whom Jake seeks out for guidance and training. With Jean's help, Jake may be able to tame his inner demons for good.

Is it any good?


Fight movies have their place in cinematic history (Rocky, anyone?); done right, they manage to capture the humanity in the brutality and the poetry in the punch, but NEVER BACK DOWN doesn't. The cuts are so quick that you can't appreciate any technique. And though, like better sports films, the film does attempt to reveal the internal struggles that fuel the physical ones, it does so with overly broad strokes. There's little nuance or complication and so many fight scenes that when the movie finally gets to the big beat down, it's almost anti-climactic -- it just feels like yet another battle. The movie's also riddled with cliches; there's a supportive girlfriend, a funny sidekick, mantras ("Control the outcome"), and even a race between the mentor and the mentee that's a straight rip-off of Rocky.

Director Jeff Wadlow does manage to drum up some excitement by letting the action unspool with a light touch. The script isn't memorable, but the dialogue is believable, and star Faris is blessed with an easy smile and a likable swagger. And Hounsou, though he delivers a one-note performance, is still fun to watch.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why Jake feels compelled to fight. How does his approach to fighting change from the beginning to the end? What lessons does he learn from his mentor? How does he show that he's learned them? Does Jake teach Jean anything? Why are there so many movies about fighting? What's the attraction? How do you know who's the "good" guy and who's the "bad" guy in movies like this? Is that realistic?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 14, 2008
DVD/Streaming release date:July 28, 2008
Cast:Cam Gigandet, Djimon Hounsou, Sean Faris
Director:Jeff Wadlow
Studio:Summit Entertainment
Run time:113 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:mature thematic material involving intense sequences of fighting/violence, some sexuality, partying and language - all involving teens.

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Adult Written bySchulkman April 9, 2008

Do teenagers need more negative influences?

Even though this movie does have some redeeming value, I believe it is not appropriate for ages 13-15. It should have been rated R. I do not like the fact that my 13 year old daughter could go buy a ticket and see this "fight-club" movie. This movie contains girls fighting girls, girls fighting boys and boys fighting boys- sometimes to the extreme of sending someone to the hospital or kids passing out. The fight scenes are long and drawn out and the kids watching definately cheer the action on. They all want to see blood. It's sick. Note: there is a scene w/ 2 girls in a hot tub making out with each other. Also, numerous gratuitous shots of girls' breasts in a number of situations. Not a feel-good uplifting film! Definately one for the "boys".
Educator Written byaaronmichaellogan April 23, 2009


This movie glorified violence, plain and simple. The lesson to be learned (by teenage boys) was that the guy who delivers the bloodiest beating gets the respect, and the girl. Great message. I watched this movie with a group of about 20 teenage boys and they absolutely loved it. It made me nauseous.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Kid, 11 years old April 9, 2008


The violence-for-fun mentality of this movie was disturbing and NOT PG-13, the girls kissing in a hot tub covered only in bubbles with boys recording it wasn't PG-13 and the fixing-to-have-sex close-ups of the "teenage girl" lead's cleavage were not PG-13. The physical damage the good guy did to innocent men and not going to prison for it was VERY hard to explain to my son. NOT for children under 17. For adults, it had a pretty decent story. The way they managed to fill us in on the characters' back stories was quite clever and effective. The actors were, to me, unfamiliar and I was quite impressed with them all. All in all, I felt extremely uncomfortable having my 12 year old son, who can normally take just about anything. If you like crunching bones and severe gore for fun, this is the movie for you - not kids!