Shades of Karate Kid in Mixed Martial Arts Drama Coming to DVD
After her husband dies in a car accident while driving under the influence, Margot Tyler (Leslie Hope) decides to relocate from Iowa to Orlando, Florida for a fresh start with her two teenage sons. Plus, there’s the added incentive of enrolling her younger one, Charlie (Wyatt Smith), in a tennis camp catering to promising prodigies.
Unfortunately, the grieving widow failed to factor in the toll the move might take on her elder boy, Jake (Sean Faris), a sensitive soul who has been beset by unaddressed anger management issues ever since the tragedy. It isn’t long before his sensitivity reaches the ears of Ryan McCarthy (Cam Gigandet), the ringleader of a sadistic gang of ne’er-do-wells at his new school who like to fight for fighting’s sake.
So Ryan has his girlfriend, Baja (Amber Heard), feign a romantic interest in Jake and invite him to a party, never letting on that he’s coming over just to take a bloody beat down. Soon after he arrives, Ryan callously plays the “Your dead dad was a drunk” card, and Jake predictably pops his cork, unaware that his opponent has a black belt in brawling.
A rescue squad arrives in the person of 98-pound weakling Max Cooperman (Evan Peters). He who peels Jake off the floor and directs him to the Combat Club, a mixed martial arts dojo run out of a rundown warehouse by Jean Roqua (Djimon Hounsou), a spiritually-oriented sensei from Senegal. Like a latter-day Mr. Miyagi, he allows the lad to enroll with the understanding, “No fighting outside of the gym, no matter what.” Yeah, right.
While Never Back Down has few surprises for anyone familiar with The Karate Kid, it does add a few 21st Century elements to the mix (like the use of YouTube) which at least serve to make the familiar formula feel refreshed.