DMovies - Your platform for thought-provoking cinema

American Fighter

Director - Shaun Paul Piccinino  - 2020

"Thoroughly sanitised movie"
A Persian teen grappling with racism and an ailing mother in Ronald Reagan's US earns money through wrestling, in this poorly crafted and reheated pastiche of filmic styles - out on Monday, July 20th

Tthe latest film from stuntman/filmmaker Shaun Paul Piccinino is a fictional sequel of Alex Ranarivelo’s semi-biographical American Fighter: The Wizard. Set in California in 1981, Ali Jahani (George Kosturos reprising his role from four years ago) is a college freshman on a wrestling scholarship faced with the daily racial discrimination in Reagan’s America while trying to raise money to sneak his ailing mother out of war-torn Iran. With the little money that he has, his roommate (Bryan Craig) introduces him to his Uncle McClellan (Tommy Flanagan of Westworld and Sons of Anarchy) who manages high-stakes underground fights. In the tradition of Rocky and The Karate Kid (John G. Avildsen, 1976 and 1984), Ali trains and saves up every penny he has to make sure his mother has a new life in America.

Unlike the 2016 film written by Ali Afshar, which was based loosely on his life as a Persian teenage expat who was a wrestler at California State University before setting his sights on film, Piccinino and screenwriter Carl Morris run roughshod over the 2016 drama with a film that is a clunky pastiche of Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, 1982) meets Out of the Furnace (Scott Cooper, 2014) with the obligatory 1980s-styled montages of training and fighting with the not-so-subtle images of bar-brawling violence.

The film attempts to acknowledge racial discrimination with shiftless energy exemplified in a scene when Ali’s love interest (Allison Paige) comforts Ali after being victimised by members of the wrestling team as she says, “It’s 1981, racist assholes like that should be tarred and feathered.” Apparently, she didn’t vote for Ronald Reagan or watch the Moral Majority’s decade-long televised onslaught towards people of colour, various religious affiliations and the LGBTQ+ community.

While giving up his pounds of flesh in the underworld of illegal fighting, Ali builds a complex comradery with Duke (Sean Patrick Flanery), a booze-addled medic and reluctant lackey for McClellan who tries to ply Ali’s head with philosophical musings that would make Terrence Malick scratch his head with confusion. The conflicting and strained relationship between Duke and McClellan is enjoyable for anyone who’s either missed Million Dollar Baby (Client Eastwood, 2005) or has been living under a rock when Creed (Ryan Coogler, 2016) was Sylvester Stallone’s return to Hollywood recognition.

With the series of flaws the film poses, the only saving grace is Kosturos who gives a solid performance elevating the film from its sporty schmaltzy script. As a stand-alone film, it does follow the upbeat-Rocky-styled narrative but the whitewashing of Afshar’s original story is as painful as a 90-minute full-nelson.

American Fighter is out on VoD on Monday, July 20th.



"Thoroughly sanitised movie"

By David Stewart - 14-07-2020

By David Stewart - 14-07-2020

David Stewart is an American teacher of Film and Media Studies at Plymouth State University, in New Hampshire (US). When he’s not teaching, he’s a contributing writer for PleaseKillMe.com....

DMovies Poll

Are the Oscars dirty enough for DMovies?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Most Read

Forget Friday the 13th, Paranormal Activity and the [Read More...]
Just a few years back, finding a film [Read More...]
A lot of British people would rather forget [Read More...]
A small family of four lives in a [Read More...]
Another year has gone by, and DMovies is [Read More...]
Pigs might fly. And so Brexit might happen. [Read More...]

Read More

The Long Rider

Sean Cisterna
2022

John McDonald - 22-06-2022

Authentic, intimate and raw documentary about an aspiring journalist’s 25,000km, eight-year incredible epic journey on horseback will move and grip you - from the Dances with Films Film Festival [Read More...]

Traffic and tragedy: 21st Transylvania International Film Festival round-up

 

Redmond Bacon - 21-06-2022

Our critic's time in Cluj-Napoca offered a serendipitous combination of location and venue, offering a balm in difficult times [Read More...]

Babysitter

Sonia Chokri
2022

Redmond Bacon - 21-06-2022

This Quebecois tale of toxic masculinity feels as unwanted as the acts it tries to make fun of — live from Transylvania International Film Festival. [Read More...]

Facebook Comment

Website Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *