How can you not love a story of fathers, sons, and redemption set in the world of underground, MMA-style, death matches? It’s all there in Joe Gawalis and Pete Passaro’s feature film, Bare Knuckle Brawler. I should also mention, it stars Danny Trejo. Sold yet?
Mike Calderon (Martin Kove) has two sons. Joey (Jesse Kove) is a respected law enforcement agent and Steve (Pete Passaro) is a screw-up. Steve is cocky and his hot temper screwed up his life, as seen in a flashback with young Steve in a Karate Kid homage.
“…follows Steve as he goes undercover at the fight club to find out who murdered his brother.“
Meanwhile, in the real world, fighters are showing up dead on the street—all beaten to death. The police suspect it might be a serial killer, who hangs out at a particular seedy fight club. Yes, but this fight club hides the fact that they sponsor highly controversial and illegal death matches, where only the winner walks out alive. The kingpin behind the operation is Santo Ariza (Danny Trejo). He makes the big bucks with sports betting and regularly feeding the blood lust of the crowds. Santo rules by fear and a gang of jacked-up goons. The cops have no idea this his going on under their noses.
Desperate to solve the case, Police Captain Frank Harris (William DeMeo) secretly recruits Joey Calderon to infiltrate the fight club and gather some intel. Joey is reluctant as he is keeping a low profile-raising his kids and maintaining a loving marriage (this doesn’t look good). Joey agrees and his superior fighting skills grabs the attention of Santo and his goon Vincent (John Bianco). Long story short, Joey is outed as a cop and quickly murdered.
The rest of the film follows brother Steve as he also goes undercover at the fight club to find out who murdered his brother. He’s personally tormented by Joey’s very large shadow and the thought that his father may think the wrong son died. Steve has severe self-esteem issues. While undercover, Steve meets another concerned fighter in Raymon Cruz (Gerard Cordero), who agrees to help him out.