Never Back Down

Never Back Down is a 2008 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.

Never Back Down
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJeff Wadlow
Produced byCraig Baumgarten
David Zelon
Written byChris Hauty
StarringSean Faris
Amber Heard
Cam Gigandet
Evan Peters
Leslie Hope
Djimon Hounsou
Music byMichael Wandmacher
CinematographyLukas Ettlin
Edited byVictor Du Bois
Debra Weinfeld
Distributed bySummit Entertainment
Release date
  • March 14, 2008 (2008-03-14)
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million[1]
Box office$41,627,431[1]

An unrated version called the "Extended Beat Down Edition", featuring nudity and more blood, was released on DVD on July 29, 2008.[2]


Jake Tyler has recently moved from Iowa to Orlando, Florida with his mother, Margret, and younger brother, Charlie, to support Charlie'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 after an internet video of him starting a fight at one of his football games after a frustrated player from the opposing team taunted Jake about his father, who died in a drunk-driving car crash (with Jake in the car), circulates around his new school.

Making an attempt to fit in, at the invitation of a flirtatious classmate Baja Miller, Jake goes to a party where he is unwillingly pulled into a fight with the MMA champion at the school, Ryan McCarthy. Originally, Jake does not wish to fight until Ryan taunts him about his father. Ryan easily defeats Jake, with video of the event circulating at their school and leaving Jake humiliated. A classmate, Max Cooperman, introduces himself to Jake and tells him about MMA. He sees a star in Jake and asks that he meet with MMA master Jean Roqua. Roqua agrees to take Jake as a pupil, but under the condition that Jake refrains from fighting outside of the gym which Jake agrees to. Baja attempts to apologize to Jake for luring him into the fight with Ryan, but he refuses to forgive her. Baja then confronts Ryan about the fight with Jake and proceeds to end their relationship when Ryan shows no remorse. Ryan begins to create a scene before the entire school but Jake tries to step in to defend Baja. After Ryan insults him again and leaves, Jake attends training with Roqua. Still angry about the incident, he is unable to calm down and train effectively.

After he and Max leave the gym, Jake gets into a road rage brawl with a group of men whom Jake easily disposes of while Max films. This video again circulates around the school, raising Jake's social status but agitating Ryan in the process. Ryan then proceeds to challenge Jake to compete in the Beatdown, an underground fighting tournament of which Ryan is the reigning champion. After having been banished from the gym by Roqua after his fight is discovered, Jake begs for forgiveness saying his anger is quelled when he is training with Roqua. He agrees to allow Jake to train at his gym again, but does not take it easy on him anymore, making Jake prepare to compete in the Beatdown. While training with Roqua, Jake inquires why he lives in the gym. Jake discovers that Roqua is from Brazil and he is in a self-induced exile because he believes he is the reason for which his father had disowned him; Roqua explains his brother was killed when a man whom his brother had defeated in a bar fight returned with a gun to exact his revenge. Jake then apologizes to Baja for not listening when she first apologized and the two proceed to begin a relationship.

Upon hearing that Jake has decided not to compete in the Beatdown, Ryan invites Max to hang out at his house; there he feigns interest in sparring with Max before assaulting him and leaving him at Jake's door. Jake and Baja take Max to the hospital where Jake decides to fight in the Beatdown. Despite Baja's pleas against his decision, he states that doing nothing has consequences. Before he goes to the tournament, he has a brief argument with Roqua about his decision to fight. Roqua eventually assents and tells him to "control the outcome" of the fight. Jake arrives at the tournament and both Ryan and he make their way through each fight, 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.

The next day, a visibly injured Max has been released from the hospital. Jake has won the respect of his fellow students, including Ryan, and Roqua closes the gym with a ticket to Brazil, signaling his intention to reconcile with his father.


  • 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
  • Zach Myers as Jeff
  • Neil Brown Jr. as Aaron, Ryan's best friend
  • Lauren Leech as Jenny
  • Anthony Matos as Yellow Hummer Crew #1
  • Daniel Hernandez as Yellow Hummer Crew #2
  • Justin A. Williams as Yellow Hummer Crew #3


Filming took place entirely in south Orlando, Sanford and Clermont, Florida. All school scenes were shot at Cypress Creek High School except the football scene in the beginning of the film and the courtyard scene 10 minutes in, which were shot at East Ridge High School. It was originally entitled "Get Some", but believed by the producers to have a sexual connotation then changed to its current title.

Screenwriter Chris Hauty was allegedly inspired by his son showing him videos of school fights on YouTube, as well as one that occurred at his school.


Box office

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

The film was met with mostly negative reviews, earning a score of 22% on Rotten Tomatoes; the consensus being: "Though not without its pleasures, Never Back Down faithfully adheres to every imaginable fight movie cliché".[3] 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."[4] 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".[5]

Awards and nominations

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

Home media

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.[6]


A 2011 sequel entitled Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown was released with Evan Peters reprising his role as Max Cooperman. Directed by Michael Jai White – who makes his directorial debut and also top-bills the cast, the film stars Alex Meraz, Jillian Murray, MMA fighters Todd Duffee, Lyoto Machida, Scott Epstein and Australian actor-singer Dean Geyer.[7]

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. "Never Back Down (2008)".
  2. " – ''Never Back Down'' (Extended Beat Down Edition) DVD Review". 2008-07-11. Retrieved 2013-07-22.
  3. Never Back Down at Rotten Tomatoes
  4. Kirschling, Gregory (2008-03-19). "Never Back Down Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2012-01-14.
  5. Phillips, Michael (2008-03-12). "Movie Review: Never Back Down". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2012-01-14.
  6. "The – ''Never Back Down''". Retrieved 2013-07-22.
  7. "Never Back Down franchise just got Geyer". September 1, 2010.
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