Bren Foster may not have the same name recognition of other martial arts stars such as Jean Claude Van Damme or Scott Adkins, but he certainly has the talent. He has the looks, acting ability and physical skills to be a major star, but so far this has eluded him.

I first became aware of Foster a good number of years back where he co-starred alongside Steven Seagal in both Maximum Conviction (2012) and Force of Execution (2013). Neither were exactly Seagal’s finest hour, but Foster’s talents shone through, especially in Force of Execution where he was essentially the lead, even if his name did feature further down in the credits.

As impressive as he was in these films, they didn’t automatically lead to larger roles. While he worked consistently, putting in solid work in the likes of The Last Ship (2014) and Infini (2015), he didn’t have a proper vehicle that fully showcased his talent. To rectify this, Foster took the obvious choice and decided to make his own star vehicle.

This brings us to action thriller Life After Fighting which Foster not only stars in but wrote, produced and directed. I love it when a film like this comes along, one that I knew very little about and it manages to blow me away. Now, Life After Fighting may not be perfect, but ultimately it still manages to be an excellent directorial debut for Foster as well as cementing his status as a bonafide action star.

Foster plays former martial arts champion Alex Faulkner who after retiring from the sport has opened his own gym. Loved by his students, Alex has settled down to an easy going life, a life that will soon be disrupted. While things seem to be going well for him, even developing a budding relationship with Samantha (Cassie Howarth), things are eventually thrown into disarray with the disappearance of two children right outside his gym.

What makes this worse is that the two children in question belong to his friend and colleague Julie (Annabelle Stephenson), with the disappearance throwing her life in turmoil. Although Alex helps with the search, after weeks of them being missing all hope seems lost. Only through happenstance does Alex find himself further involved, with this disappearance being linked to a human trafficking operation, one that could have ties to Samantha’s ex-husband Victor (Luke Ford). With his and his loved ones’ lives in jeopardy, Alex will find himself in a fight more dangerous than anything he faced in the ring.

Bren Foster hardly sets a foot wrong with Life After Fighting, with him giving a dedicated performance in the lead role, one that shows off his acting as well as his martial arts skills. Even with his seemingly superhuman fighting skills, Foster has an everyman quality to him that makes him instantly relatable. His character Alex is the perfect hero, loved by his students and willing to do what’s right when the time comes. While he seems almost unstoppable come the latter half of the film, Foster makes sure not to play him as some kind of superman. It is clear from the start that Alex has been through the wars, with him mentioning the amount of surgeries he has gone through. This of course doesn’t stop him from kicking ass when needed but does make him appear more human.

He does as good a job behind the camera as he does in front. Considering this is his first film as director he holds things together with an assured hand. The film is shot in a no bullshit manner, making sure you can clearly see the action. There is the odd use of shakycam employed but not so much that it becomes obtrusive, with it even bringing a sense of urgency to some of the fight scenes.

Having also written the script, Foster takes his time in telling his story. When I initially looked at the run time being over 2 hours I thought the film may feel bloated. Admittedly some fat could have been trimmed from the runtime to bring it down to a more manageable 90 minutes. An additional subplot focusing on a previous rivalry between Alex and a professional fighter probably could have been excised, but unlike the recent The Last Kumite (2024), this never feels like padding, with it even allowing for one of the film’s standout fight scenes.

The mentioned fight has Foster squaring off against one of his former The Last Ship co-stars Eddie Arrazola. It is a more frenetic fight than others in the film, with a higher sense of realism. Mixing up grappling techniques with elaborate punches and kicks, both fighters give the fight their all, giving the fight a level of urgency. What really sets this fight apart is that it’s not abundantly clear from the start who will be the victor.

Foster doesn’t follow the typical revenge formula. Rather than Alex instantly looking for the perpetrators when the girls are kidnapped, he instead does what any normal person would do. He does with the search but at the same time he tries to keep some sense of normalcy, going back to running his business and training his students. It is only when his girlfriend Samantha accidentally stumbles on the kidnappers that Alex finds himself fully involved, having to go up against a team of human traffickers in violent fashion.

The fact that Foster takes his time to get to the main crux of the plot actually pays off in the latter half of the film. Admittedly, the first half of the film could be considered melodramatic, but the cast Foster has assembled make sure never to go over the top.

Well that is other than Luke Ford, who seriously chews the scenery. From his first introduction, it isn’t much of a surprise his character turns out to be one the film’s main villains. Now this isn’t a complaint, as it is important to remember that Life After Fighting is ultimately an action movie, and with that it needs a villain that you love to hate. Ford certainly fills that criteria, with him carrying out some horrible acts throughout the film, some that even had me almost shouting at the screen.

While there are some fights in the first half of the film, with the aforementioned fight between Foster and Arrazola being one of them, the majority of the action is kept for the latter half of the movie, and this is the section of the film that should please most action fans.

It is obvious that Foster was working with a small budget, with much of the film being restricted to a few locations, with the main one being Alex’s gym where the main set piece of the film takes place. Roughly taking place over the last 40 minutes of the film, Foster and his fight team should be commended with the quality work they carry off. With no shortage of beat downs on offer, this entire scene is a perfect showcase for Foster’s talents, not just as a physical performer but as a fight choreographer.

Yep, not happy with only acting, writing, producing and directing, Foster also choreographed the fight scenes. Excitingly staged, Foster has crafted some of the more memorable fight scenes of 2024, ones that put larger budget productions to shame. I’m looking at you Road House (2024).

Speaking of Road House, like that film, Foster’s character seems to take to killing quite easily. Initially apprehensive, upon his first kill you can see the shame on his face. This however is quickly put aside as Foster ends up dispatching enemy after enemy, either by breaking bones or other bloody means. Now this isn’t exactly a gore fest, but I was surprised how violent the action became. Not that I was complaining as I found myself cheering Foster on as he worked his way through the bad guys.

I know there will be some that may be put off by the lack of star power involved, but put all of those reservations aside. Sure, there are slight drawbacks, and the runtime could have perhaps been tightened up, but these are minor quibbles, and ones that can be easily overlooked when looking at the grander scale of the production.

Personally, I love it when a film like Life After Fighting comes along, one that shows what can be carried out with limited resources but a lot of dedication. It’s a true calling card for Bren Foster and one that hopefully pushes his career in the right direction, whether that be as director, actor or fight choreographer. Hopefully it won’t be long until he is once again combining all of these and treating us to another quality actioner like this.

Plot: 3.5/5
Acting: 4/5
Action: 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5


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