American Fighter Parent Guide
Like most boxing movies, this is more about heart than technique.
Parent Movie Review
Expecting to meet his parents as they arrive from their Tehran flight, Ali (George Kosturos) instead finds himself having a horrifying conversation with the pilot. Armed men had boarded the plane in Tehran, killed his father, and prevented his mother from leaving Iran. Already trying to balance competitive wrestling and a full academic load at university, Ali suddenly needs to raise about $30,000 to have his mother rescued, and time is of the essence. Unable to get a regular job that can raise that kind of money quickly, Ali has to get creative. His friend, Ryan (Bryan Craig) might have the answer. A skilled wrestler like Ali can make good money quickly in an illegal MMA fight with McClellan (Tommy Flanagan), the local bookie. But even then, Ali is going to need help to make it in the brutal world of underground bareknuckle fighting, and his only hope may be washed-up former fighter Duke (Sean Patrick Flannery).
Fighting movies are usually about heart over technique. Rocky Balboa had some fun training montages, but at the end of the day, that movie wasn’t a documentary about boxing. The same thing goes for American Fighter. While the fighting is prominent (and fairly intense), what is at stake for Ali is far more important than whether he can throw a good punch. And American Fighter knows it. The fighting is a big draw, but the focus of the film is on Ali’s friendships and his need to save his mother.
This is not to say the movie is perfect. The pacing is a little odd, with a long first act, about ten minutes of transition, and then the third act. It’s not the end of the world, but it does make a relatively short flick feel a good bit longer. The other issue is the character development, which suffers from a similar problem. Ali is a pretty static character for about 65 minutes of a 90 minute movie, which does hurt.
That said, I have a soft spot for these underdog stories. I’ve seen almost this exact story (with a variety of motivations) more times than I could count, but that has somehow failed to dampen my enthusiasm. If you’re also a fan of the genre, I expect you’ll have a good time – even with the brutal violence in the ring. While this isn’t a children’s film, obviously, older teens and adults should be able to handle American Fighter. Of course, that’s assuming they aren’t about to try any of this at home: Even in the ring, some of the moves on display here could easily prove fatal or result in permanent disability, and that would ruin the fun real quick, wouldn’t it?Directed by Shaun Paul Piccinino. Starring George Kosturos, Tommy Flanagan, and Sean Patrick Flanery. Running time: 98 minutes. Theatrical release May 21, 2021. Updated May 21, 2021
Watch the trailer for American Fighter
Rating & Content Info
Why is American Fighter rated R? American Fighter is rated R by the MPAA for violence.
Violence: There are many scenes depicting underground bareknuckle fighting, all of which involve considerable violence and typically end in a knock out. Individuals also sustain broken bones. One individual is severely beaten outside of a fight and is ultimately hospitalized. One character is executed.
Sexual Content: One scene depicts college students flashing others, but no nudity is seen.
Profanity: There is one sexual expletive, eleven scatological curses, and several mild profanities and terms of deity. There are also several cruel racial slurs used.
Alcohol / Drug Use: People are seen drinking, sometimes to excess. One character is depicted as an alcoholic.
Page last updated May 21, 2021
American Fighter Parents' Guide
Ali is pushed into illegal fights by his need to raise money. What precludes him from getting a legal job? What barriers existed then for him? Which of those barriers would still exist now? How can we combat discriminatory hiring practices?
Ali’s mother is trapped in Tehran in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution in the late seventies. What caused the Iranian Revolution? What effects did it have on the region? Has Iran changed since? If so, how?
Britannica: Iranian Revolution
The New York Times: The Iran Revolution at 40: From Theocracy to “Normality”
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Sean Patrick Flannery recently starred in another underground fighting movie, Born a Champion, in which he plays a skilled jiu-jitsu fighter. As with many fighting movies, this has a good deal in common with Rocky and The Karate Kid. Fans of fighting movies will also enjoy Creed and Creed II, the latest entries in the Rocky franchise. Here Comes the Boom is another movie about Mixed Martial Arts.
For a family friendly option, check out Fighting with My Family, the story of two teens who want to pursue their family’s legacy in wrestling.