ground mixed martial arts fight club by Ryan (Cam Gigandet, “The O.C.”) the local MMA champ and sociopath. After Ryan beats him up for fun, Jake seeks an exotic, older man named Jean Roque (Djimon Hounsou) to teach him the mythical path to ass-kicking enlightenment.
Roque takes the impetuous Jake under his proverbial wing, and after a series of montages Jake is ready to reclaim his honor and the love of Baja (Amber Heard, “Hidden Palms”), the bad guy’s ex-girlfriend with a heart of gold. If this all seems familiar, it is.
It’s the exact plot of “The Karate Kid,” updated for young America’s growing fascination with MMA and cell phone cameras. Remakes are nothing new, but “Never Back Down,” while it has good-looking actors and a “Friday Night Lights”-style look and pace, never captures the underdog heart the of its predecessor, and winds up just an exercise in slow-motion face kicking. PG-13