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Never Back Down

MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for mature thematic material involving intense sequences of fighting/violence, some sexuality, partying and language—all involving teens

Reviewed by: Rachelle Smotherman

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Action, Drama
1 hr. 50 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
March 14, 2008
Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Summit Entertainment

Anger in the Bible

Teen issues
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Featuring: Djimon Hounsou, Amber Heard, Sean Faris, Cam Gigandet, See all »
Director: Jeff Wadlow
Producer: Bill Bannerman, Craig Baumgarten, David Zelon
Distributor: Summit Entertainment

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Set against the action-packed world of Mixed Martial Arts, Never Back Down is the story of Jake Tyler, a tough kid who leads with his fists, and, often, with his heart. Jake Tyler is the new kid in town with a troubled past. He has recently moved to Orlando, Florida with his family who has relocated to support his younger brother's shot at a professional tennis career. Jake was a star athlete on the football team at home, but in this new city he is an outsider with a reputation for being a quick tempered brawler.

Making an attempt to fit in, at the invitation of a flirtatious classmate, Baja Jake goes to a party where he is unwittingly pulled into a fight with a bully named Ryan McDonald. While he is defeated and humiliated in the fight, a classmate introduces himself to Jake and tells him about the sport known as Mixed Marshall Arts (MMA). He sees a star in Jake and asks that he meet with his mentor, Jean Roqua.

It is immediately apparent to Jake that MMA is not street fighting, but rather an art form he wants to master. Roqua will take Jake under his wing, but it is up to Jake to find the patience, discipline, willingness and reason within him to succeed. For Jake, there is much more at stake than mere victory. His decision will not just settle a score; it will define who he is.”

“Never Back Down” is a mix of “Fight Club,” “Karate Kid” and “Rocky,” all rolled into one. Aimed at teenagers (the theater was filled with them on opening night), this movie offers up plenty of buff bods and bikini clad girls, along with the fighting.

Positive Aspects

  • The trainer, Jean Roqua (Djimon Hounsou) supplied depth to a movie that otherwise could have been severely lacking. Always encouraging his students to maintain self control and deal with pent up emotions, Roqua exemplifies discipline, patience and honor.

  • Main character Jake Tyler (played by newcomer Sean Faris) takes on the difficult process of working through grief and guilt, realizing that ignoring his emotions has been getting him into trouble.

  • Jake recognizes the value in fighting for what he believes in and can separate fighting for the sake of conviction vs. fighting because of pride.

  • Family reconciliation, demonstrating forgiveness and grace.

Negative Aspects

  • People are constantly getting beaten to a pulp!

  • Very scantily dressed girls permeate the entire film, including one close-up, make-out scene with a girl on top of her boyfriend.

  • Teen drinking and partying are commonplace. As are the absence of parents throughout this movie.

  • Foul language including many uses of “B**ch”. While present, I didn’t find the language excessive for a movie of this rating.

  • A couple brief, implied homosexual remarks.

Bottom line: This movie does have some redeeming qualities to add to its plethora of intense fight scenes, but the message it sends to teens that drinking, fighting and seducing each other are okay is not what I would want to be feeding to my kids.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—“Never Back Down” is, despite some negative elements, justified by its moral message. The only questionable material that is present is used to display the full idea of what it truly means to “never back down.” A great view for the entire family, this film is packed with excitement that will have you on the edge of your seat.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
Cali, age 24
Positive—It's a movie about maturing, anger, responsibility, and family. Jake feels tremendous guilt for letting his father drive drunk, resulting in his death, so he lashes at out at anyone who provokes him or tells him he's responsibility, getting in fights at school. His family then moves to Orlando so his little brother can get a scholarship at a pro-tennis school. Jake has a lot of trouble, being betrayed by a friend and getting in fights until he matures in a pivotal moment, admitting to a fight instructor “I lied because I'm p*ssed off. Because I'm angry, all the time! All I had to do was say no, and I blew it! My dad was tanked, wasted, and I let him drive. I let my family down, I've been getting in fights… I don't want to be angry anymore.”

His instructor forgives him and tells him, “You cannot live in the past, my friend.”

To summarize without spoiling everything, it's a movie about dealing with anger, about maturing, being responsible (“Doing nothing has consequences too!”, Jake exclaims) and treating family and friends right.

There are multiple fist fights and blood, so beware of some violence. There is also some kissing (gasp, run away) and girls in bikinis. Jake and a female classmate start making on the ground, with her sprawled on top of him, only for his little brother to walk in with mom on the phone. At first he's baffled, and they quickly claim they were 'wrestling.' He catches on a moment later and tells the girl, grinning, “{I'm a} Big wrestling fan,” joking with her at a later time when Jake leaves the room, “Wanna wrestle?”

Overall, even as a Christian, I loved the movie. Maybe because I can relate to the “I’m p*ssed off. I'm angry, all the time!” line. Maybe because I love it that he changes for the better and wins. …
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Andrew Benson, age 19 (USA)
Negative—If you are a real born again Christian… avoid this movie. Why I went to this? I don't know, it didn't seem bad by its previews. The entire movie glorifies teenage sex and unnecessary violence. Why expose your Spirit to such filth.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
Scott, age 34
Comments from young people
Positive—WoW!!! this is definitely one of the best movies I have ever seen. It has a great story about a teen who is afraid of his emotions at first and that gets him into trouble , so he learns to deal with them , and to not fight for pride but to defend himself and others , the Lord’s name was only taken in vain once or twice but overall the language was very brief and I was glad about that, no nudity only a few sexual themes and a short kissing scene with baja on top of jake, But overall this was a great movie don't miss it!!!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Dillon Nuzum, age 16 (USA)