Dito Montiel’s debut film, the semi-autobiographical A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, was a little-seen but extremely promising coming-of-age story set on the backstreets of Astoria, New York. Montiel has followed it up with Fighting, a Rocky-style story about following your dreams, set within the Big Apple’s illegal bare knuckle boxing scene.
Opening engagingly enough with hero Shawn MacArthur (Channing Tatum) as a street-corner counterfeiter, Montiel evokes an authentically scuzzy portrait of urban street culture, scored with sweet and soulful music by the likes of Bobby Blue Bland and Robin Thicke. Unfortunately all this urban flavour can’t save Fighting’s ultra-bland script, co-written with Robert Munic, which drags McArthur and his two-bit promoter Harvey (Terrence Howard) through a tedious series of encounters with street hoods, mixed in with a pointless romance with nice-girl Zulay (Zulay Henao).
Montiel is a gifted filmmaker, and delivers quirky support turns from Luiz Guzman and Anthony DeSando, plus a spectacular brawl for the final showdown, ripping through the wall of a rooftop apartment in rough-house style. But, while the promise of blue-collar bloodshed might bring in a few gawkers, Fighting displays none of the sensitivity which made Montiel’s debut so auspicious.
General release from Fri 15 May.