He plays "Jack Dancing," a New York mobster and streetfighting kingpin who gives Channing Tatum's Shawn his first bout at the urging of hustling small-timer Harvey (Terrence Howard). He doesn't have a lot of screentime, but he takes the movie to a whole new, utterly bizarre level whenever he appears -- and in the process made me laugh harder than almost anything else this year. His performance has been described by others as "Walken-esque," but while Smith is compellingly weird in a similar way (and speaks with a comparable off-kilter cadence), he adds an element of hardass gangster menace that somehow makes the whole thing even funnier.
He storms into the movie in the context of Harvey trying to give Shawn an introduction, and I could watch on infinite replay the extended moment in which Jack looks Shawn up and down and repeatedly declares, with ridiculous tough-guy bravado, that he'll "give 'im a peep." (I laughed so hard I suspect the rest of the theater wanted to have me committed.) He shows up a few more times and similarly chews the scenery. Then, just before the Big Fight, he gives a "let's get it on" speech that is currently in the running for the always-in-flux title of "the Greatest Thing I've Ever Seen." I don't want to give too much away, except to say that it's a masterpiece of hokey, bloodthirsty malevolence, completely absurd but with syntax and repetition that almost makes it poetic, delivered by Smith with at least 150% commitment. I was in awe.
I don't want to oversell the film, which is really just decent: a "B-," or two-and-a-half stars, or whatever you prefer. (I do however want to enthusiastically endorse Dito Montiel, who is now officially one of my favorite newcomers.) But it's discoveries like Smith's hysterically oddball performance that occasionally reward taking a chance on critical black sheep like Fighting.