American Brawler (2013) – Review

3 1/2 Stars


It is a goofy pleasure to see a movie with scenes set at a karate dojo in 2013. American Brawler a.k.a. Barrio Brawler a latino-angled, martial arts themed fight flick is a lot of fun when viewed as an homage to B-movies of yesteryear. Carlos (Marco Antonio Alvarez) Castillo is an instructor by day at the school, bequeathed him by his late father. Things aren’t going great, bills for renovations are past due and creditors call non-stop. In a moment of desperation Carlos approaches his half-brother for a large sum payback from a loan previously gone forgotten. Ricky (Dennis Ruel) isn’t in the position to acquire the funds so he approaches Morales, a small time hood who organizes underground fight tournaments for cash.

Carlos adheres to a strict principle when it comes to fighting. However, Morales threatens to pull Ricky’s teeth out if he can’t convince his brother to fight. After a heated conversation, that leads to an intense sparring session, Carlos reluctantly agrees to join the competition. Carlos isn’t just fighting attackers, he is also fighting to get his estranged wife and son back into his life. This is constantly undermined by a Ricky’s tendeancy to get himelf further into debt and trouble. The predictable format is followed to the letter, but the style in which it unfolds is engaging enough to hold viewers attention for the brief duration. Quick-eyed audience members will spot a trio of professional MMA fighters, including Gilbert Melendez and Jake Shields.

American Brawler, is the first ‘fight flick’ I’ve seen released under The Asylum banner. It is part of their oncoming wave of ethnic-themed action films. So far so good, this plays like a rip-off of previous films, but at least it has competent direction, nice writing and some strong leads. I like star Marco Antonio Alvarez, he has a peaceful on-screen presence that isn’t overbearing, which is a common issue in films of the ilk. Like most b-movies shot on sparse budgets, American Brawler has limited locations and a few scenes that go on far too long. However, the script is literate and contains a bit of appreciated humor.

The centerpiece of any movie with Brawler in the title should be the fight scenes, and American Brawler delivers. I have sat through enough Martial Arts flicks to recognize talent in front of and behind the camera, this has each in excesses. From the choreography, to the editing, to the athletes themselves everything is fluid. If you can get through a few rough patches that are inserted for (what seem like) extending the running time to feature-length, then action audiences will be treated to a nice surprise from the house of Mock-busters. Ask any fighter and they’ll tell you, it’s the punches you don’t see coming that affect you the most. By that rationale American Brawler is a knockout.

Director: Jose Montesinos
Stars: Marco Antonio Alvarez, Dennis Ruel, Morgan Benoit

3 thoughts on “American Brawler (2013) – Review

  1. Thanks for the review, Jason! Glad you enjoyed the flick! I’m curious though, you said “trio” of professional MMA fighters, who is it you think was the 3rd?

    Thanks again!

  2. You guys always review stuff I’ve never even heard of and I love it. This one looks to be pretty interesting. Might I suggest adding trailers to your reviews? Easier than making us hunt them down ;)

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