A section of the audience in the contemporary American discourse bellyaches about there not being enough mixed martial arts movies out there – a subgenre that once dominated the box office landscape. With a movie title like “Life After Fighting,” one might presume it to be a grounded documentary about the lives of former MMA champions who’ve left behind the ring. Instead, it’s an action film that harkens back to the old-school style of filmmaking – one that gives its cast and crew an excuse to turn the moviemaking experience into a carefully constructed combat area.

The movie stars Alex Faulkner (Bren Foster; “Deep Blue Sea 3” and “Alpha Code”), a former fighter and world champion who now runs a dojo after suffering a string of spine surgeries. But we soon learn how he’s not done with fighting, not yet, as things from his past soon creep up to call his duty back into action. Apart from starring, Bren Foster has also written and directed the 125 minute feature, hence making “Life After Fighting” his first time doing either.

That may also explain the somewhat leisurely approach the film takes with certain narrative threads. We get shoehorned cards telling us the passage of time, not once or twice but at multiple instances throughout its three-act screenplay. The action, then, becomes a well-padded tool to gear us through its rather single-noted storyline. Without further ado, let’s delve into the plot mechanics of the film and a detailed look at how it all ends.

Life After Fighting (2024) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

Mixed martial arts instructor Alex Faulkner’s life, after a long-drawn professional career, now revolves around the Taekwondo training institute he teaches at. A former world champion who abruptly left the ring quitting during a high-stakes game, Alex is hurtling toward a point in his life he might not be fully satisfied with. In the first act, we learn how the new world champion, Arrio Gomez, keeps sending requests to fight Alex for a real fight.

He’s of the belief that it’s absolutely necessary for him to beat Alex in order to establish his supremacy, regardless of Alex putting on the semblance of how he’s moved on. The narrative beat comes full circle later in the film when Alex eventually gives in to Arrio’s request and beats him in the ring. In the larger narrative, however, it serves as a training match marking the stark comeback of the lead, leading to the biggest challenge he’d face in his life.

It’s when a single mom named Samantha comes to enroll her five-year-old son, Terry, at Alex’s institute that things begin to change. The former couple, estranged for years, leading Samantha’s marriage to an ugly and abusive marriage, hit it off again in the hopes of a better future. Even though Alex has the strict rule of not getting involved with the parents of any student, he can’t ignore the instant rekindling he feels with her. Remember Samantha’s abusive ex-husband, though? Victor, who still can’t get over his ex-partner, soon grows particularly distasteful of her dynamic with the karate coach. In fact, Victor shows up at Alex’s school and threatens him along with his side-kick enforcer, Milan.

What leads to the Kidnap of the Young Girls?

Alex soon teaches Milan a lesson in hand-to-hand combat in his school courtyard, following which two random guys, Ethan and Ryan, join the institute, pretending to be newly enrolled students, only to cause disruption during the training sessions. Realizing these two aren’t going to understand and respect the norms of the school, Alex silences the latter by submitting him to a beating, prompting the duo to leave. Well, at least for the time being.

Just when things are looking normal again for Alex, two young girls, Violet and Laney, both long-term students of his, get kidnapped right outside the institute. Violet, in fact, happens to be the daughter of Julie, the school’s receptionist and also Alex’s cousin. Things quickly turn personal, as now Alex needs to figure out a way to get her back.

How Does Alex Manage to Find Samantha and the Young Girls?

From the moment Victor shows up enrolling at the school in a rather suspicious way, you instantly know for a fact that the guy is not good news. But how would his obsession with his ex-wife correlate to the sudden kidnap of the two little girls, potentially raising doubts about the potential of human trafficking? Well, that’s exactly what happens, as we soon learn he intends to send them to Romania. Victor showcases a fake concern about the safety of his young son at the school in front of Samantha as well as Alex.

Life After Fighting (2024) Movie
A still from “Life After Fighting” (2024)

Eventually, Samantha ends up tracking her son out of concern, leading her to a secluded home. It’s here where she finds the two girls, along with some other kids, locked up behind a cage. With her cellphone battery at 1%, she isn’t able to get away and break the news to Alex, well, at least not as soon as she would have hoped, leading to her getting caught by her atrocious ex-husband. Thankfully, though, her text to Alex with details of the remote address gets delivered, and Alex soon drives up to the place, smelling something wrong.

Life After Fighting (2024) Movie Ending Explained:

Throughout the course of the film, the one thing Foster consistently succeeds at is setting up his amped-up lead to be a reasonable man at a crossroads – both in his personal and professional life. We see how he genuinely doesn’t want to resort to violence anymore. But his fate seems to have other plans, as he puts on the revenge mode owing to the threat to both the former and the latter. While he manages to let loose the girls by tracking them through the metal cages, his plan of going to the police soon comes crashing down when the personal stakes get even more real. Thus, by the time he manages to rescue the girls, he’s left with no choice but to teach Victor and his gang a lesson.

Turns out, Victor recklessly kidnaps his own son to blackmail his ex-wife and Alex into returning the girls back. He agrees to let Laney and Violet go, but the remaining four girls must be handed over to him for sending them off to Romania. To prove how he’s being serious about Terry’s life and, by extension, the extent he’d go to, the guy chops off Terry’s pinky finger. The film doesn’t spare any time or effort, giving its many villains any shred of redeeming quality, thus turning them into despicable macho guys with one single objective. This leads to an agreement where they’d trade the girls for Terry at Alex’s school, the logic being it’d be a place they’re already familiar with. On a filmmaking level, it constrains the film to two locations while making the most out of its setting.

Does Victor Kill Alex?

The final act of the movie then becomes an opportunity for the actor-filmmaker to flex all the combat muscles, amping the creative framework of this neat sub-genre. Out of all the members of Victor’s gang, Milan, by large, gets the most brutal torture. Ethan and Ryan, too, meet their ugly demise as Alex punches them to death. However, when Victor eventually shows up, the movie shifts into high-octane melodramatic range as we watch him shoot Alex and Samantha down to the ground. Foster obviously wanted to notch things up with emotional stakes, but if you’ve been paying attention, then you’d know how it turns out.

Alex manages to shoot Victor through his own gun shoved to the chin, grappling him into submission. You do sense the conventional savior hero dying in the end trope incoming before it’s soon undercut by Alex’s own student, Simon, who coincidentally happens to work in the police force. He steps in and saves the day. The movie ends with Samantha pushing a wheelchair, helping Alex return home after yet another long, supposed surgery.

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Life After Fighting (2024) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Letterboxd
The Cast of Life After Fighting (2024) Movie: Bren Foster, Cassie Howarth, Luke Ford, Annabelle Stephenson, Anthony Nassif, Arielle Jean Foster, Eddie Arrazola
Life After Fighting (2024) Movie Genre: Action/Drama/Mystery & Thriller | Runtime: 2h 0m
Where to watch Life After Fighting

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