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Life After Fighting (2024) Review

With a title like Life After Fighting, you might think this is a documentary about the lives of boxers and MMA competitors once they’ve left the ring for the last time. Instead, it’s a somewhat misnamed action film about Alex Faulkner (Bren Foster, Alpha Code, Deep Blue Sea 3) a former competitive fighter who now runs a dojo. But we know he’s not done with fighting, or rather it’s not done with him, otherwise this would be a damn short movie.

Much of the film’s first half hour revolves around Alex and his budding romance with Samantha (Cassie Howarth, Home and Away, 2 Graves in the Desert) who he meets when she brings her son Terry (Anthony Nassif) in for classes. It also leads to the film’s first fight when her possessive ex, Victor (Luke Ford, Avarice, Ghost Machine) sics his massive buddy Milan (Mike Duncan, Nekrotronic, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) on him.

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That’s soon to be the least of his worries, because Violet (Arielle Jean Foster) and Lainey (Aaliyah Knight) the daughters of his receptionist Julie (Annabelle Stephenson, Escape Room, Tidelands) are abducted from the dojo’s parking lot.

Apart from starring, Bren Foster wrote and directed Life After Fighting, his first time doing either. That may explain the somewhat leisurely way the film goes about things. We get cards telling us time is passing, first one week, then two, and the girls haven’t been found. But rather than having him go vigilante, the script has him still holding class, dealing with Arrio Gomez (Eddie Arrazola, The Last Ship, The Bronx Bull) a fighter whose been calling him out on social media, anything but getting to what the viewers came to see.

That’s not to say there’s no fighting, there are three in the first hour, the film runs two hours and five minutes, and they’re all well staged. But it feels like padding, as we want to see him to go after the traffickers. Eventually Samantha, by pure coincidence, finds out, no surprise, that Victor is responsible and gets herself captured in the process. That’s when things finally shift into gear.

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The last hour actually goes in the opposite direction from what you might expect. Alex rescues the captives fairly easily. But the film turns into a martial arts version of Assault on Precinct 13, when the traffickers come to take them back. At that point, the film becomes an almost nonstop series of fights featuring everything from grappling to flying kicks and what is probably the first use of a doorknob as a deadly weapon. Foster was responsible for the fight choreography as well, and he delivers not just the usual quick beat downs, but several long, well staged battles.

While there isn’t much for the cast to do in terms of actual acting, Luke Ford does manage to deliver a memorably deranged performance. Perhaps a little too deranged, because there’s never any doubt he’ll turn out to be behind the kidnappings. Mike Duncan also deserves a mention for doing a great job as a human wrecking machine.

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Bren Foster makes a solid debt with Life After Fighting, especially considering how many positions he was filling on it. The main problems are in the film’s first hour, he puts in way too many extraneous elements that serve no real purpose and slow things way down. The subplot with Gomez could easily have been dropped, and there are way too many scenes of Alex watching his students training and/or training with them. At ninety minutes, Life After Fighting would have been excellent, at a hundred and twenty-five it’s overlong and slow to get started.

Thankfully, the final hour makes it worth sticking around for. But once you get past that, the last hour more than makes up for it with plenty of bone breaking action. If Foster can learn how to streamline a script, he as a promising future behind as well as in front of the camera. As for Life After Fighting, I’m recommending it, but I’m also recommending using fast-forward as needed.

Life After Fighting is available on Digital and VOD Platforms via Vertical Entertainment.

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