XLrator Media // 2011 // 84 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 1st, 2012
Rivals. Enemies. Brothers.
From the folks at XLrator Media, a label that pumps out action-flavored cinema, as you can see by the edgy use of the word "X" in their name. Their latest serving is pit-fighting saga about two brothers who enter the ring to settle a score, and yes that does sound a whole lot like Warrior.
Even the name Brawler is reminiscent of that excellent Nick Nolte / Tom Hardy pugilistic opus, but don't be fooled: that's where the similarities end; quality being first and foremost.
Okay, it's not fair to compare the two films. Brawler isn't terrible, it's just in a completely different league than its superiors, meaning anything that combines pugilism and drama. The action here is brief and underwhelming, the acting is stiff, and the story is unsurprising.
The Fontaine brothers, Charlie (Nathan Grubbs, Down in New Orleans) and Bobby (Mark Senter, Cabin Fever 2), are skilled fighters and very close to each other. Charlie is the more grounded of the two, involved in a stable marriage and an honest job. Bobby is a scumbag, scratching out a living through underground fighting on a Louisiana riverboat and selling fake cocaine to college jocks. When Charlie gets laid up coming to his brother's rescue, their relationship begins to deteriorate, culminating in a massive betrayal involving Bobby and Charlie's wife. The only way to sort out their differences: beating the holy hell out of each other in the pit.
Despite the intense cover art and macho title, Brawler is not as action film. It's a family drama with a couple of bouts, and a finale that exists NOT to titillate hounds of mayhem, but act as melee therapy. If you're hoping for some fisticuffs, steer clear. You will be disappointed.
Even if you're after compelling drama, I'm not so sure you won't be disappointed. Somewhere within this film beats the heart of good intentions. I'm a sucker for redemption stories, but Brawler just can't stick the landing. The acting is one-note and the characters are thin. Charlie proves to be the most compelling, though that's probably because he has the most crap happen to him. Mark Senter turns in an odd and clumsy performance as Bobby; for some reason his line delivery lead me to believe his dialogue was dubbed. In fact, he comes across as so unlikable, there's no tension in the culminating bout between him and his brother. By that time, I was hoping Charlie would cave in his skull.
XLrator's Brawler (Blu-ray) also fails to deliver a memorable experience. The 2.40:1/1080p high def transfer is uneven, alternating between decent and dumpy. The film's look is gritty and dirty, but the high level grain, mixed with some weird shadow and lighting effects during the darker sequences, results in a sub-standard video treatment. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is subdued, having little to do except transmit body blows during the fight sequences, which are few and far between. English SDH subtitles are included, but there are no extras.
Guilty. Not enough action for action fans, not enough everything else for everyone else.
Review content copyright © 2012 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: XLrator Media
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R