A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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.
Violence & Scariness
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."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some kissing and sexual innuendoes. Some skimpy outfits.
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"Bulls--t," "ass," and "bitch." Some trash talk during fights.
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Products & Purchases
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.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
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Our Editors Recommend
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