The underdog story receives another spin in American Fighter from director Shaun Paul Piccinino. Based on a true story, the film tells the story of an immigrant college wrestler named Ali (George Kosturo) who is on a scholarship at an American college. While Ali has the support of his Star Wars-loving roommate and fellow wrestler Ryan (Bryan Craig), he has to deal with comments from racist teammates.
To make matters worse, Ali is desperate for cash to save his deathly ill mother. One day, during wrestling practice, a teammate picks a fight with Ali and Ali easily takes him down. This impresses Ryan, who then introduces Ali to the hidden world of underground fighting.
Ali soon catches the eye of McClellan, a fight promoter, and meets a love interest in Heidi (Allison Paige). Naturally, a series of events leads to Ali getting a bloody beat down and on the verge of losing everything. Meanwhile, Duke (Sean Patrick Flanery), a troubled handler, sees Ali’s promise but knows he lacks in full skill. Taking pity on the boy, Duke decides to train him to be a fierce competitor for a comeback, but is it enough to make Ali a winner?
If you’ve read the description for American Fighter then I’m sure you know all of the typical plot beats the film is going to hit (pun intended). That said, director Shaun Paul Piccinino and his co-writer Carl Morris have constructed an enjoyable throwback popcorn flick with a solid storyline and some impressive fight scenes. Of the cast, Sean Patrick Flanery and Tommy Flannigan are the most experienced and bring their usual bravado to the film. The youth cast in the film is also impressive and using unknowns allowed me to identify with them. Yes, you know exactly where the film is going to go and that’s just fine.
Final Grade B-
American Fighter is available to stream now