Barrio Brawler/American Brawler (2013)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long

Company:  The Asylum

Runtime: 92 mins

Format: Screener

Plot: A struggling martial arts teacher must compete in an illegal underground fight ring in order to save his brother from a crime boss and reunite with his family.

Review: Barrio Brawler (Or American Brawler as its actually called on Asylum's official website) was among the recent screeners that Asylum sent me for review. It's due out in select theaters tonight (joining Hold Your Breath as being among the select rare Asylum flick to make it to theaters), and it's due out on DVD and BluRay at the end of August on the 27th.

Now when it comes to B-Movies, it's no secret that my favorites are killer animals, Mega this vs Giant thats, mockbusters, and horror or sci-fi flicks, none of which this one is, so I was a bit out of my element with Barrio Brawler, but since Asylum was kind enough to forward me a copy of the screener, the least I could do was give it a shot and do up a review on it. With all that said, I ended up being thoroughly entertained by it. I mean, it's no Sharknado, Atlantic Rim, Transmorphers, Nazis at the Center of the Earth, Age of Dinosaurs, or any of those types of mindless fun summer popcorn style movies, but it's not trying to be. It's much more of a low-key drama, focused more on its characters, with their own personal trials and tribulations as opposed to giant CGI monsters wrecking havoc through some unfortunate cities.

Oh, and MMA martial arts. Lots of MMA martial arts. And the really surprising thing? It's all excellently well-shot - In a lot of movies like this, especially in the cheapie Direct-to-Video market, martial arts fight scenes are done with a combination of super quick-cuts and trick photography mixed with the occasional decent shot of actual talent. In Barrio Brawler however, the camera mostly just stays on nice still and lingering shots while the talented martial artist actors go to town on one another in extremely impressive, violent and just all around brutal fight scenes; If you're any bit queasy on physical violence, this movie is not for you, but if you're fine with it, this movie will have your eyes glued to the screen for fear of missing even a single beat of a fight – even three seconds could be enough to miss a half-dozen kicks, a couple punches, and a somersault through the air.

Another aspect that was quite interesting was having an older person as the central character. Not to say the actor is an old fogie, but normally for movies like this its a teenager or someone in their young to mid-20's in the main role, so it was refreshing to have a movie not scared to focus on a bit older of a main character, especially one that got moves like Jackie Chan crossed-cloned with Tony Jaa. It also helps that, despite this being his very first movie, the dude has some pretty decent acting chops. Now, it's nothing to write home about and stop the presses for, but considering what the movie is and what it's aiming to be, and for someone with no previous acting experience, the guy handles his own pretty damn well. Actually, I believe all the actors in this one are essentially unknowns (this is their very first movie for most of them as well), and while some are pretty stilted and rough in the acting department (mostly the more minor characters), some of the others were surprisingly good. But then again, people don't watch a movie about underground MMA fight matches for the acting, they watch it for the fights, which as I mentioned above, are well worth the price of admission alone.

With a movie like Barrio Brawler (or American Brawler, or whatever they end up going with in the end), there's not a whole lot I can really say on it – Most of the actors are good, with their characters having been decently-written, and while the plot is a bit thin, overly-predicable, and has a few slightly-longer-then-necessary exposition scenes in the first half that drag things out just a tad too long, it's still serviceable enough for the real reason people are watching this, and that's for the amazing, albeit very intense and quite brutal, MMA fight scenes. 

If you're lucky enough to live in an area where this is playing at a nearby theater (starting tonight!), I highly recommend it as I can imagine the fight scenes would look even more spectacular on the big screen. If not however, be sure to pick up your DVD or BluRay copy on or after August 27th when it hits stores. 

7/10 rooms in the Psych Ward


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