Won't Back Down Blu-ray Review
Inspirational movies about educators fighting to save struggling schools, students, even failing sports teams, come around on a semi-frequent basis. This genre has been played out in every way possible, so when a new film comes out, I expect it to bring something original to the table. Unfortunately, WON’T BACK DOWN falls short of being anything fresh and is a predictable tale of struggle within a failing school.
Single mom, Jamie Fitzpatrick (Maggie Gyllenhaal), struggles between two jobs to make ends meet. Finding the lazy attitude from tenured teachers infuriating, she ‘WON’T BACK DOWN’ when it comes to her daughter’s education. Teaming up with an equally frustrated teacher and mother, Nona Alberts (Viola Davis), the duo learn of a clause where failing schools can get turned over to the teachers and parents to run. Fighting opposing parents, teachers, the school district’s red tape, and teachers unions, they might have bitten off more than they can chew. But, for their children, the two will bear the emotional drama in hopes for a better education.
Films like LEAN ON ME, STAND AND DELIVER, DANGEROUS MINDS or the 2010 documentary WAITING FOR ‘SUPERMAN’ conjured up a an emotional angst and great desire to fight for the students and schools. WON’T BACK DOWN aimed for this type of drama and hope for a better school system. However, something in the story telling lacked the conviction it desperately tried to display. The entire script felt canned and generic. Throwing in things like the romance between Fitzpatrick and pro-union teacher, Michael Perry (Oscar Isaac) seemed unnecessary. Their conflicted romance did not create additional drama, rather another dull sub-plot.
The actors in this film are all skilled and talented performers outside of WON’T BACK DOWN. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of an energetic go-getter was a combination of Julia Robert’s Erin Brockovich meets Kristen Dunt’s Torrance Shipman from BRING IT ON. Basically, she portrayed the attitude of an aggressive Chihuahua. The scene where she does not hear her daughter’s name for the charter school’s new student acceptance lottery – just might be the funniest moment in this picture. Not because Fitzpatrick’s daughter will have to continue struggling to learn in a failing school, but because of the bug eyed facial expression that Gyllenhaal held for a minute too long. At first the un-blinking moment felt warranted and you understood the punched in the gut feeling of desperation, but the longer she reacted to the news, the more I tried to hold in my laughter.
Viola Davis is almost-magnificent in this film as a dejected teacher, fed up with her colleagues lack luster attitudes toward teaching once they reached tenured status. I say ‘almost-magnificent’ because there were times she shined on screen, but most other moments I was wondering if she was sleep-acting. When Alberts finds inspiration to embrace the passion she first felt as a teacher and we see her in the classroom with happy engaged students, she is the Viola Davis we all know and love.
It’s a shame that the filmmakers did not do much to add to this picture. Overall this movie felt too safe and lacked an emotional connection with the audience.
Video (2.35:1): The video for WON’T BACK DOWN had clear images.
Audio (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1): The audio was exactly what you’d expect from a blu-ray.
Audio Commentary: Much like WON’T BACK DOWN, this is a generic commentary by director Daniel Barnz.
Deleted Scenes (8:42): Eight rightfully cut scenes. There is an optional commentary feature by director Daniel Barnz.
A Tribute to Teachers (3:47): The WON’T BACK DOWN cast and crew share anecdotes about their favorite educators.
The Importance of Education (5:14): This feature highlights the cast and crew’s opinions about education in America.