Movie Brings Violence to
Schools are under more pressure than ever before to help
students learn to solve confrontations without resorting to violent acts. Yet
one new film is obviously more determined than ever to teach the exact opposite
Never Back Down is a movie currently in limited
release, which means it won't be at every movie theater when it opens on
March 14, 2008, but it will likely find its way to your neighborhood cinema
(and, eventually, DVD player) sooner or later.
Parents should hope for later... much later.
The film is marketed as a sports movie that extols the
virtues of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), a vicious fighting technique that mixes
traditional hand-to-hand combat (punches, etc.) with Martial Arts techniques.
MMA is becoming very popular thanks to competitions like the Ultimate Fighting
Championship bouts that frequent pay TV channels.
But the "art" -- a word used to describe MMA in the media
release for this film -- of MMA is dubious at best, at least from the
perspective shown in this movie that thrills at the idea of high school students
beating each other to a pulp in private homes and under stadium bleachers.
The "hero" in this story is a high school senior named Jake
who is forced to move to Orlando after his younger brother gets a chance to
train in professional tennis. But Jake has a troubled past, and his reputation
as a scrapper precedes him, thanks to videos of him knocking out another guy on
his high school football team.
He has vowed to his mother that he will turn a new page in
Florida, and quit fighting. But when the "bad boy" of his new school goads him
on, the kid eventually cracks and gets back into the action of street fighting.
The story attempts to bring a little Karate Kid
sensibility into the plot when Jake begins training with an MMA mentor who
operates a gym. But the overall tone of the film, and its very alarming
conclusion, promotes wanton school violence with no consequences.
In these fights it's a goal to either knock the other
person unconscious or put them in a hold that causes them to pass out. Either
way, these are extremely dangerous activities that in real life would result in
serious injury. Yet, in this movie, a few bandages solve the problems without
any consequences. When one of Jake's "weaker" friends is beaten senseless, only
one character mentions calling the police. Her advice is unheeded, and instead
our hero seeks revenge in a conclusion that even has his mother endorsing his
Another popular activity in this film is videoing the
fights and then uploading them to the Internet so all the school can see the
action on their cell phones. Sadly, a quick search of popular video web site
YouTube confirms such video does exist.
Unfortunately, this movie does nothing to illustrate the
consequences of this dangerous and anti-social behavior. Instead it glamorizes
and glorifies fighting between high school students as being honorable and
exciting. Even the boy who was beaten nearly to death is sitting up in bed
watching his cell phone and cheering on the big final match just twenty-four
Finally, with the exception of the mother, women play one
role in this movie and that is to be sex objects for the boys to play with.
Remember, these characters are all portrayed as teens in high school, yet
virtually every scene has young women in tiny bikinis that are used as wallpaper
behind the action in this testosterone-drenched film. One scene takes place at a
party where many underage characters are seen guzzling beer, and two presumably
topless girls (they are covered in bubbles) are in a hot tub in the midst of the
crowd passionately kissing each other.
Rated PG-13 by the MPAA for "mature thematic material
involving intense sequences of fighting/violence, some sexuality, partying and
language -- all involving teens," this film needs a far greater warning as it's
message can literally have deadly consequences.
Besides writing this column for the Parents Television Council, Rod Gustafson authors Parent Previews® - a newspaper and Internet column (published in association with movies.com) that reviews movies from a parent's perspective. He's also the film critic for a major Canadian TV station, various radio stations and serves on the executive of the Alberta Association for Media Awareness. Finally, his most important role is being the father to four wonderful children and husband to his beautiful wife (and co-worker) Donna.
and the Media by Rod Gustafson
Television Council -
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