Released last Friday, The Fight Within has been described as “an action-packed mashup of faith, fighting and romance.” The movie tells the story of mixed martial arts (MMA) champion Logan Chandler and his struggle with grief and self-doubt after the death of his father. Chandler nearly gives up on MMA but is compelled to return to the ring after a vengeful opponent threatens the woman he loves.
Yes, woven throughout is a love story between Chandler and a lovely young Christian woman, Emma Jones. Like the 16.8% of the American population that moves ever year, Emma is relocating to Africa to carry out her missionary work. Before she leaves, though, she introduces Chandler to the pure joys of being a faithful and dutiful Christian. Born again, Chandler commits himself to a nonviolent lifestyle, abandoning his former life as a fighter.
Of course, it doesn’t last long. Hayden Dressler, a rising MMA star wants revenge after losing a fight to Chandler years earlier. When Chandler refuses to fight, Dressler vandalizes his car and invades Emma’s apartment. Angry and desperate to protect Emma, Chandler returns to his MMA roots.
The underlying message is made clear: follow God’s call and play your part in His grand plan. However, critics are more or less unimpressed.
“Ultimately though, The Fight Within is too generic as a sports flick, and too pro forma as a tract. There’s more vitality and humanity in the closing-credits blooper reel than in anything in the actual picture,” said Noel Murray of the Los Angeles Times.
Joe Leydon of Variety said in his review, “Scene after scene (or, if you prefer, round after round) of The Fight Within is clunky and didactic, and the movie as a whole has appreciably less mainstream appeal than several other recent, and much better, faith-based dramas.” He went on to call it “ponderously predictable,” further stating, “It doesn’t help much that some on-the-nose dialogue sounds like it belongs in a parody of faith-based entertainment.”
Overall, critics agree that the film misses the mark.