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Bare Knuckleheads

Bare Knuckleheads

Fighting‘s chief auteur might be producer Kevin Misher, who also helped greenlight the first Fast and the Furious movie. Logically wanting to replicate that film’s massive success outside of the franchise, he sought another illicit world of extreme hetero recreation. And as in the earlier film, he wanted race and ethnicity to not interfere with the characters’ interactions, to show that “the thrill of the sport” trumped such pointless, dying concerns. That almost utopian aspect of both movies is appealing. Pretending such matters of identity don’t exist is a just a stubborn, cheeky way of repudiating racial conflict.

As per the title, the excuse for the movie this time is the illegal bareknuckle fighting scene in New York, in which Wall Street yupsters and various bored, rich shysters bet large stakes on brutal amateur bouts. The buff, blandsome Paul Walker character here is Shawn (Channing Tatum), raised in Alabama and relatively new to New York, where he’s scraping by selling knockoff books (like Harry Potter and the Hippopotamus) off the street in midtown. A scam artist named Harvey (Terrence Howard) senses Shawn’s cash potential when he sees him fight off some punks trying to filch his merchandise. It’s unclear how Harvey could so accurately suss out his fighting ability from this ten-second scuffle, but he’s soon Shawn’s agent, earning him entrée into the lucrative underground. Thinking his fighter will have a special premium because he’s a “white boy who went to college,” Harvey is only laughed at.

Tatum, star of the Step Up movies who’s playing Duke in the upcoming G.I. Joe picture, is not as good-looking or “intense” as Walker. He has the same numb but all-in-the-right-place features as Josh Hartnett, yet he never hints at a deeper intelligence. Click here to read the rest of Justin Stewart’s review of Fighting.

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