All things are eighties retro these days, and why not? Who does not love an 80's High School Sports film? Who does not love an underdog coming back, triumphing overall? When the odds are very much against him? Director Shaun Paul Piccinno and writer Carl Morris, must have studied up on the 80's Martial Arts & sports films, everything you would like to see from these films, is here. Inspired by real events. This is American Fighter.
The year is 1981 Ali Jahani ,convincingly acted by George Kosturos, is sent to America by his father to live with his Uncle, to keep him away from the troubles in Iran. Building a life for himself in the US, sees him attending high school, and joining the wrestling team. Ali and his best friend, roommate Ryan Caulder (Bryan Craig), are at the top off their game. There is also romance when Ali meets Heidi, played by Allison Page, and theres some really touching scenes played between them. All this, the American dream, is put on the back burner when the opportunity arises to bring his folks to the states. A desperate Ali is introduced by Ryan to fight promoter McCellen played by the excellent Tommy Flanagan. He is dragged into this dangerous underground fight world by McCellen, who throws opponent after opponent at him. Ali is doing this for his family and for one reason, too raise the money to bring his exiled parents to America. There is no opponent that will stand in his way. Along the way he is helped by Duke (Patrick Sean Flanery) a drunken corner man, with a past. Duke also gives him fight advice, becoming his mentor along the way leading to an eighties magic training sequence that sets Ali on the road to coming back against the odds for the final fight
The cast are solid. Tommy Flanagan is always good to watch. Though he does seem to be stuck in his Sons of Anarchy persona, as Chibs. George Kosturos, handles the drama scenes very well, some very touching scenes between him and Allison Paige's Heidi. He also has the physicality for the fight scenes. The standout performance for me is from Sean Patrick Flanery as Duke is by far the most interesting character. I do wish that he had more screen time and that they made more of the training sequence. The fight choreography by Noel Vega is very down to earth, gritty, and tightly edited.
As I said this is an 80s movie, it really does tick off all the boxes. You know which way it is going to go. You know the outcome, but you are taken on the journey and your happy to tag along. You`re happy to cheer for underdog and watch him overcome, the odds. As with 80s classics this is a feel-good film, the politics of it all is never really touched upon and it works as an eighties High School Sports film. Well done to director Shaun Paul Piccinino for recapturing the feel, of the eighties High School Sports and fight films
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable step back to my youth for ninety-eight minutes. Keep a look out for the credit scene. This it aces, for anyone that was a kid off the eighties!