Metascore
42

Mixed or average reviews - based on 34 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 34
  2. Negative: 8 out of 34
  1. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Sep 26, 2012
    83
    Won't Back Down says that whatever your feelings about the subject, lack of change cannot be the answer to our public-education crisis. Trying to cram an informational exposé and a vintage inspirational awards-bait weeper into one movie, Won't Back Down is awkward at times, yet it's also passionate in a surprisingly smart way. It makes a genuine drama out of impossible issues.
  2. Reviewed by: Kyle Smith
    Sep 28, 2012
    75
    I haven't seen a timelier or more important film this year, and the film's passion for school choice could hardly be more warranted. Along with documentaries such as "The Lottery" and "Waiting for 'Superman,' " the film comes with a background sound of the ice of inertia cracking.
  3. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Sep 27, 2012
    75
    For sure, this is a cause movie - sometimes it even feels that way - in favor of charter schools and against the teachers unions. Still, Won't Back Down is reasonably fair in its approach.
  4. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Sep 25, 2012
    75
    It's a film that deserves to be seen, savored, debated and given serious attention.
  5. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Sep 28, 2012
    67
    Hollywood has never been the best arena to hash out policy debates. But social-issue movies can have real societal impact. That's why Won't Back Down, which presses a lot of hot buttons, deserves to be taken seriously, and criticized seriously, on its own terms.
  6. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Sep 27, 2012
    63
    While there are moments where this drama, about a pair of mothers hellbent on improving their children's education, is compelling and deeply moving, the film gets mired in heavy-handed cliches.
  7. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Sep 27, 2012
    63
    Barnz tries, at least a bit, to acknowledge the heroic and historic legacy of the union movement and its rightful place in the contemporary labor landscape. But much of the blame for the sorry state of Adams Elementary, and the school system at large, is placed at the union's feet.
  8. Reviewed by: R. Kurt Osenlund
    Sep 26, 2012
    63
    One of its strengths is a knowledge of when to unfurl information, particularly for the strongest emotional effect.
  9. Reviewed by: Amy Nicholson
    Sep 26, 2012
    60
    Won't Back Down makes grand drama of bureaucracy, positioning Gyllenhaal as the knight slaying 400 pages of government paperwork in order to wrest control of her daughter's elementary school. It's rousing - if not thrilling - stuff.
  10. Reviewed by: Stephen Whitty
    Sep 28, 2012
    58
    Even when the details of their lives feel unbelievable, these actresses compel our faith and keep us watching.
  11. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Sep 30, 2012
    50
    Go see Won't Back Down and enjoy it. Just don't believe it's anything more than a stacked deck with a lot at stake.
  12. Reviewed by: Bilge Ebiri
    Sep 30, 2012
    50
    If you want your movie to blow up the right way, you have to do better than the paint-by-numbers story and characters presented here.
  13. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Sep 28, 2012
    50
    While the cast is filled with award winners, writer-director Daniel Barnz is a dunce who can't construct an argument without employing flimsy logic and cardboard characters.
  14. Reviewed by: Liam Lacey
    Sep 28, 2012
    50
    As a movie trying to make the case for parental management of the education process, Won't Back Down, doesn't make an entirely convincing case.
  15. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Sep 27, 2012
    50
    The issue is contentious, messy, prone to wishful thinking. Some see a corporate plot to privatize schools. Others see a last chance to save them. Won't Back Down is on the latter side, obviously, and it has the boilerplate urgency of a TV movie that has been blessed with a high-end cast.
  16. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Sep 26, 2012
    50
    Both the lottery scene and the anti-union material seem to be fictionalized versions of material in the powerful documentary "Waiting for Superman," which covered similar material with infinitely greater depth.
  17. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    Sep 26, 2012
    50
    The movie addresses timely issues but eschews shading in favor of blunt black and white. It's old-school Lifetime fodder dressed up in Hollywood trappings.
  18. Reviewed by: Peter Debruge
    Sep 26, 2012
    50
    Grossly oversimplifying the issue at hand, writer-director Daniel Barnz's disingenuous pot-stirrer plays to audiences' emotions rather than their intelligence, offering meaty roles for Maggie Gyllenhaal as a determined single mom, and Viola Davis as the good egg among a rotten batch of teachers, while reducing everyone else to cardboard characterizations.
  19. Reviewed by: Melissa Anderson
    Sep 26, 2012
    50
    In Davis's case, marveling at yet another fine performance doesn't stop you from wishing that her first leading role was in a worthier vehicle
  20. Reviewed by: Nathan Rabin
    Sep 26, 2012
    42
    The film's clumsy sloganeering, however, largely defeats the leads' fine efforts.
  21. Reviewed by: Ken McIntyre
    Jan 21, 2013
    40
    The leads are fine, but the movie's about as fun as summer school.
  22. Reviewed by: Alison Willmore
    Sep 27, 2012
    40
    The film is all for teaching as a calling. What it doesn't do is offer it the dignity of also being a job.
  23. Reviewed by: Mary Pols
    Sep 27, 2012
    40
    If "Waiting for Superman" was intended to make audiences think, Won't Back Down is supposed to make them feel. It made me feel more annoyed than outraged.
  24. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Sep 27, 2012
    40
    I am neither anti-charter schools nor anti-union. I am, however, firmly against heavy-handed lectures disguised as art.
  25. Reviewed by: Barbara VanDenburgh
    Sep 26, 2012
    40
    The film is at its best when it focuses on real-life human drama rooted in character: failing marriages, crushing poverty, professional malaise. Davis in particular delivers as impassioned a performance as ever -- good enough that you wish you could airlift her character into another movie.
  26. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Sep 26, 2012
    40
    So teachers' unions don't care about kids. Oh, and luck is a foxy lady. This is what I took away from the inept and bizarre Won't Back Down, a set of right-wing anti-union talking points disguised (with very limited success) as a mainstream motion-picture-type product.
  27. Reviewed by: Connie Ogle
    Sep 28, 2012
    38
    Nothing wrong with a movie having a point of view, but watching people spout jargon or exposition doesn't really make for riveting entertainment.
  28. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Sep 27, 2012
    38
    Davis, in particular, manages to create a fully dimensional character in the midst of a highly polemical screenplay.
  29. Reviewed by: Ella Taylor
    Sep 28, 2012
    30
    For all its strenuous feints at fair play, though, Won't Back Down is something less honorable - a propaganda piece with blame on its mind.
  30. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Sep 27, 2012
    30
    However you take its politics, the film upholds a dreary tradition of simplifying and sentimentalizing matters of serious social concern, and dumbing down issues that call for clarity and creative thinking. Our children deserve better.
  31. Reviewed by: Marjorie Baumgarten
    Sep 26, 2012
    30
    The rescuing of our public schools is a national necessity. I just don't know that we are aiding that cause by sending out oversimplified and dogmatic messages about not backing down.
  32. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Sep 28, 2012
    25
    So didactic that viewers are likely to feel less uplifted than lectured.
  33. Reviewed by: Keith Uhlich
    Sep 30, 2012
    20
    The film slowly reveals its true colors, pointing a fanatically accusatory finger at teachers' unions while using twisted Obama-esque sloganeering about "order" and "hope" to further its simplistically anticollectivist agenda.
  34. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Sep 27, 2012
    20
    This poor film is so shamelessly manipulative and hopelessly bogus it will make you bite your tongue in regret and despair.
User Score
6.4

Generally favorable reviews- based on 14 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 6
  2. Negative: 1 out of 6
  1. Oct 1, 2012
    5
  2. Sep 28, 2012
    9
    To Wont Back Down Critics: I am an Urban parent, so the question on the table: "Are parents suppose to sit back and continue to allow education systems to continue to fail to effectively educate and keep safe millions of children because the defenders of "failure as an option" are not ready to embrace change in how we deliver education to children? The Bottom line: if parents don't protect their children who will? FYI the fictional parent Maggie was the actual "trigger" not some law! She saw a problem in the school and it "triggered" her into action! Don Full Review »
  3. Nov 13, 2014
    5
    "Won't Back Down" 10 Scale Rating: 5.0 (Mediocre) ...

    The Good: A hot topic that deserves attention and certainly is a good idea for a
    film. Viola Davis was great, which is starting be expected from her in every performance. There are some very good dramatic scenes in the film. It could have used more, but the few that it did have were well done.

    The Bad: Maggie Gyllenhaal almost single-handedly ruined the film. Her character was supposed to be the tough as nails mom trying to get a better education for her daughter. Instead she grated on me and was extremely annoying. Sadly, the film as a whole also falls flat and misses the mark. It mostly glosses over the real issues and over simplifies it.
    Full Review »