Dir/scr: Chris Sivertson. US. 2012. 83mins
Stylish visuals and eye-catching locations are outweighed by a weak script and some overwrought performances in Brawler, a New Orleans-set action drama about two brothers and the seedy world of underground fight clubs. The balance might work for a modest young-male audience, though mixed martial arts fans seem more likely to respond than indie film afficionados.
The fights are well shot but don’t feel as brutal as they should and the climactic bout is too drawn out to be really effective.
After playing last year at some smaller festivals in Europe and the States – it screened at Montreal’s Fantasia event recently - the film gets a Sept 4 US VOD launch, to be quickly followed by theatrical and DVD releases on the Turbo international action label operated by distributor XLrator. International prospects appear limited but may be strongest in markets where mixed martial arts is popular.
Director Chris Siverston (probably best known for 2007 Lindsay Lohan thriller I Know Who Killed Me) wrote the script from a story apparently based on real events in the notoriously free-spirited Big Easy.
Brothers Charlie (Nathan Grubbs, from Down in New Orleans) and Bobbie Fontaine (Marc Senter, from Siverston’s The Lost) are both regular winners in the vicious underground fights staged on mob-run New Orleans riverboats. But when he’s injured saving Bobbie from a beating, Charlie has to take on less glamourous work. And while Charlie’s at his job Bobbie begins to get friendly with his big brother’s wife (The Lincoln Lawyer’s Pell James), leading to a brother-on-brother showdown in the ring.
The supporting cast includes Bryan Batt, from TV’s Mad Men, in a small peripheral role.
Siverston shoots the action with a big nod to seventies American independent cinema, with lots of camera movement and unusual framing. The New Orleans and Mississippi river locations add plenty of local flavour, as do the bluesy songs written for the soundtrack by indie rock band Howlin Rain.
The fights are well shot but don’t feel as brutal as they should and the climactic bout is too drawn out to be really effective. Even more problematic is the lack of dramatic tension in the rather predictable story and the tendency of the three young leads to push too hard for emotional intensity.
Production company: GFY Films
US distribution: Turbo/XLrator
International sales: Raven Banner Entertainment, www.ravenbannerentertainment.com
Producers: Nathan Grubbs, Marc Senter
Executive producers: Captain Jack Grubbs, Tommy Ajubita, Jarrett McNeely
Cinematography: Zoran Popovic
Editors: Abe Levy, Philip Norden
Music: Tim Rutili, with original songs by Howlin Rain
Main cast: Nathan Grubbs, Marc Senter, Pell James, Dane Rhodes, Brian Stapf, Garrett Hines, Bryan Batt, Michael Bowen