Carl Morris, Shaun Piccinino
Bryan Craig, Tommy Flanagan, Sean Patrick Flannery, George Kosturos, Allison Paige
It’s 1981 and the California sun is shining bright, but there are dark clouds over college kid Ali Jahani, a wrestling champ. He’s haunted by memories of revolutionary Iran, from which he escaped as a child. Those disturbing dreams are realized when bad news, not his beloved parents, greets him at the airport. He’s desperate to get his mother safely out of Iran, but this can’t be done through conventional channels. And it can’t be done cheap. Where will he get that kind of money? A buddy brings him to a low-key warehouse at night. Stepping through the doors, Ali comes face to face with the answer — and it’s a troubling one. Head to head fights, any style goes, for cash. Before Ali can help his mother, someone‘s gonna get hurt.
Producer Ali Afshar told his own inspiring story with the 2017 sports drama AMERICAN WRESTLER: THE WIZARD, and extends the tale with this hard-hitting sequel — of sorts. His alter ego Ali Jahani, played again by the charismatic and combat-capable George Kosturos, follows a darker path this time, into the world of underground fighting. While no longer autobiographical, AMERICAN FIGHTER is just as credible, its string of brutal and convincing bouts threading through a grounded, plausible drama with real stakes and real consequences. These are personified by Sean Patrick Flanery and Tommy Flanagan, familiar screen tough guys delivering truly nuanced turns as fight-scene insiders. A pinch of political thriller, a helping of California coming-of-age, and whole lotta bare-fisted battling in the bad part of town add up to a solid win for AMERICAN FIGHTER. – Rupert Bottenberg
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