Based on true events, ‘Brawler’ is the gripping tale of two brothers caught in the web of a vicious, bone-breaking underground “fight club” set on mob-run New Orleans riverboats. After a devastating personal betrayal, the once-inseparable brothers go head-to-head in a fight to the death.
Brawler has a ton of things working against it from the start, though that is not necessarily fair. There are literally hundreds of fight movies out there that range from horrific to fantastic. Because there is so much competition, a fight movie that comes out without a big name action star attached to the title is likely to get plenty of assumptions thrown its way. Brawler, however, is not your standard, straight to DVD type of movie. This is a good little flick with great action, believable drama and plenty of heart. Hopefully enough folks will find that out before it disappears into video world.
Brawler is directed by Chris Sivertson and it begins with a huge bang. Right out of the gate, you see two fighters mixing it up in the ring. This is not your standard ring, however. It is a cage made of mesh and the fighters are pretty much allowed to do most anything. The world is New Orleans riverboat boxing, and it is illegally operated by dudes with nothing good in mind.
There are two brothers quickly identified. There is Bobby (Marc Senter) and Charlie (Nathan Grubbs) and they are as different as two brothers could be. The Fontaine brothers are known for Bobby’s youth and aggression, and Charlie’s level headed steady approach. These characteristics also cross over into their personal lives, creating most of the drama to be found in the movie. Young Bobby can’t keep his nose clean and brother Charlie has to clean it up.
It is this brother dynamic that leads to the ultimate set up for the film. Bobby does something unforgivable and sets up a showdown with Charlie that will be no holds barred. The brawl is not one that you would want the kids looking in on.
Ironically, the movie focuses a bit more on the personal problems between the brothers and relationships than it does on the fighting. Still, the fight scenes are powerful and solidly done. Sivertson actually has a natural eye it seems for the fight scenes as they come off as real and dangerous at the same time. There are no powder puff scenes in the ring.
Without giving away the plot, the two brothers find themselves on dangerous ground as the film progresses with themselves as well as others. Bobby is the epicenter of the movie, but it appears that Charlie is the one to make everything okay.
Outside of the primary characters, the acting leaves something to be desired. The primary characters are great and give the film plenty of stability. The surrounding characters leave a bit to be desired, however, as they come across wooden and rehearsed much of the time. Pell James plays a wonderful but brief part as the wife and is excellent throughout the film. It leaves you wishing she had more of a role in the movie, but she is one of the reasons the film works.
The biggest reason the movie works is because of the cinematography. Brawler was shot in New Orleans and you know it the minute you watch the film. There are plenty of clear visions of the beautiful areas in and around the Big Easy that make you want to travel there as you watch. Most importantly, the city and its surroundings give the film credibility. It is very easy to believe the place and time of the movie because they are genuine and right before your eyes. With a movie that has a low budget, those types of things are vastly more important than one might imagine. New Orleans is the star of this show.