Never Back Down

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Never Back Down
Never back down.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJeff Wadlow
Written byChris Hauty
Produced byCraig Baumgarten
David Zelon
CinematographyLukas Ettlin
Edited byVictor Du Bois
Debra Weinfeld
Music byMichael Wandmacher
Distributed bySummit Entertainment
Release date
  • March 14, 2008 (2008-03-14)
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million[1]
Box office$41.6 million[1]

Never Back Down is a 2008 American martial arts film directed by Jeff Wadlow and starring Sean Faris, Amber Heard, Cam Gigandet, and Djimon Hounsou. The movie was released on March 14, 2008. The film is about a frustrated and conflicted teenager who arrives at a new high school to discover an underground fight club.


Jake Tyler has recently moved from Iowa to Orlando, Florida with his mother, Margret, and younger brother, Charlie. His father died in a drunk-driving car crash accident, which is the subject of taunting from other classmates. He has a rising reputation with the students of his new school due to an internet video of him when he was a football player at his previous school, fighting with an opponent player. Jake is invited by classmate Baja Miller to a party where he is unwillingly pulled into a fight with the MMA champion at the school, Ryan McCarthy, who is also Baja's boyfriend. Ryan easily defeats Jake, and video of the event circulates and leaves Jake humiliated.

A classmate, Max Cooperman, introduces Jake to MMA and gets him connected to Jean Roqua. Jake trains under Roqua and has difficulty doing so due to his anger towards his incident with Ryan. Baja breaks up with Ryan due to his having no remorse for his fight with Jake, which she takes negatively. Baja also tries to make amends with Jake by apologizing for her role in the fight between him and Ryan but Jake refuses to forgive her. One day after practice, Jake deposes a group of men during a road rage brawl. Max films the video, which circulates around the school and raises Jake's social status; this agitates Ryan enough to challenge Jake to compete in the Beatdown, an underground fighting tournament of which Ryan is the reigning champion. Roqua puts Jake through more rigorous training in preparation for the Beatdown. Jake is initially reluctant to compete at the event, but his mind is changed after Max is hospitalized by Ryan.

Jake arrives at the tournament and both he and Ryan make their way through each round, each emerging victorious. Jake makes it to the semifinals in spite of an injury he received in the previous match. Baja arrives to not only support him, but to tell him that she understands why he insists on fighting: so that he would never have to do it again. After learning that Ryan was disqualified in his semifinal match due to an illegal eye gouge, Jake forfeits, seeing no reason to continue. While he and Baja attempt to leave, Ryan confronts him and the two finally fight outside in the parking lot. Jake is still limited by his injury, and Ryan at first gains the upper hand, applying a choke on Jake. However Jake escapes and knocks out Ryan using one of the first combinations Roqua taught him. Eventually, Jake wins the respect of his fellow students, including Ryan; and Roqua, who is originally from Brazil and went through a self-induced exile due to a conflict with his father involving the death of his brother, closes the gym to go to the country to reconcile.


  • Sean Faris as Jake Tyler, a trouble-prone teenager and the main protagonist.
  • Amber Heard as Baja Miller, Jake's love interest.
  • Cam Gigandet as Ryan McCarthy, Jake's rival, bully and the main antagonist.
  • Djimon Hounsou as Jean Roqua, Max's mentor who agrees to train Jake.
  • Evan Peters as Max Cooperman, a classmate who introduces Jake to MMA and befriends him.
  • Wyatt Smith as Charlie Tyler, Jake's Younger Brother
  • Leslie Hope as Margot Tyler, Jake's Mother
  • Chele Andre as Tiffany West, Baja's friend who likes Max.
  • Tilky Jones as Eric
  • Neil Brown Jr. as Aaron, Ryan's best friend.
  • Lauren Leech as Jenny, Baja's friend who becomes Ryan's new girlfriend.
  • Anthony Matos as Yellow Hummer Crew #1
  • Daniel Hernandez as Yellow Hummer Crew #2
  • Justin A. Williams as Yellow Hummer Crew #3


The fighter actors went through three months of MMA training before filming began in Orlando, Florida.[2]: 0:39–1:03


Box office[edit]

Never Back Down debuted in 2,729 theaters at #3 with $8,603,195 in the opening weekend. After 2 weeks in cinemas, it garnered $18,890,093; and after one month the movie earned $37,676,991 worldwide.[1]

The film closed on June 5, 2008, after 84 days at the North American box office with $41,627,431 worldwide against a budget of $20 million.

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 23% based on reviews from 84 critics. The site's consensus states: "Though not without its pleasures, Never Back Down faithfully adheres to every imaginable fight movie cliché".[3] On Metacritic the film has a score of 39% based on reviews from 22 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[4]

Gregory Kirschling of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a D, calling it "dopey. And with its emphasis on stupid violence, xylophone abs, and getting yourself on YouTube, it's yet another product that makes you feel bad about today's youth culture."[5] Michael Phillips of Chicago Tribune gave the film two out of four stars, saying, "[i]t's a little Karate Kid, a smidge of Fight Club (with none of the ironic ambivalence toward violence that David Fincher brought to that story), a lot of The O.C. (evil boy Gigandet played an evil boy on that series), and presto: probable hit".[6]

Richard Roeper gave the film a positive review "I laughed so much at the litany of clichés that I finally had to admit I was entertained from start to finish by this cheesy knock-off."[7]

Movie historian Leonard Maltin cited the picture as "...Wildly improbable and cliched, yet entertaining -- especially for fans of this genre. Cam Gigandet can glare with the best of them...All in all, the film Showdown tried to be."[8]


Year Award Category Nominee Result
2008 MTV Movie Award Best Fight Sean Faris and Cam Gigandet Won

Home media[edit]

The DVD was released on July 29, 2008, and has so far sold 990,405 units, bringing in $18,495,324 in revenue. This does not include Blu-ray sales.[9]

An unrated version called the "Extended Beat Down Edition", featuring nudity and more blood, was released on DVD on July 29, 2008.[10]


A 2011 sequel titled Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown was released with Evan Peters reprising his role as Max Cooperman. Directed by Michael Jai White in his directorial debut, the film stars White alongside Alex Meraz, Jillian Murray, MMA fighters Todd Duffee, Lyoto Machida, Scott Epstein and Australian actor-singer Dean Geyer.[11]

A second sequel, titled Never Back Down: No Surrender, again directed by White, who also reprises his role as Case Walker. The film also stars Josh Barnett, Gillian Waters, Steven Quardos, Nathan Jones and Esai Morales.


  1. "Above and Below" – The Bravery
  2. "Anthem for the Underdog" – 12 Stones
  3. "Teenagers" – My Chemical Romance
  4. "Someday" – Flipsyde
  5. "Wolf Like Me" – TV on the Radio
  6. "Under the Knife" – Rise Against
  7. "Time Won't Let Me Go" – The Bravery
  8. "Rock Star" – Chamillionaire & Lil Wayne
  9. "Be Safe" – The Cribs
  10. "Headstrong" – Trapt
  11. "False Pretense" – The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
  12. "Orange Marmalade" – Mellowdrone
  13. "You Are Mine" – Mutemath
  14. "Stronger" – Kanye West feat Daft Punk
  15. "Crank That (Travis Barker Rock Remix)" – Soulja Boy Tell 'Em and Travis Barker
  16. "The Slam" – TobyMac
  17. "Lights Out" - Breaking Benjamin
  18. "Face the pain" - Stemm
  19. "…To Be Loved" – Papa Roach (Featured during Theatrical Trailer)

The trance track played, when Ryan and his dad argue, is called "Estuera – Tales From The South (Jonas Steur's Flow Revision)", it did not feature on the soundtrack. It's from the album In Search of Sunrise 5: Los AngelesTiesto


  1. ^ a b c "Never Back Down (2008)".
  2. ^ "Never Back Down: Cam Gigandet Interview". ScreenSlam. March 13, 2015. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
  3. ^ Never Back Down at Rotten Tomatoes
  4. ^ "Never Back Down". Metacritic.
  5. ^ Kirschling, Gregory (2008-03-19). "Never Back Down Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2012-01-14.
  6. ^ Phillips, Michael (2008-03-12). "Movie Review: Never Back Down". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2012-01-14.
  7. ^ Richard Roeper. "Never Back Down".
  8. ^ Maltin's TV, Movie, & Video Guide
  9. ^ "The – ''Never Back Down''". Retrieved 2013-07-22.
  10. ^ " – ''Never Back Down'' (Extended Beat Down Edition) DVD Review". 2008-07-11. Retrieved 2013-07-22.
  11. ^ "Never Back Down franchise just got Geyer". September 1, 2010.

External links[edit]