At its heart, American Muscle is an exploitation film. Not a good exploitation film, mind you, it's actually quite terrible. This being a review column for terrible cinema, you’d think this film would be perfect for it, right? Unfortunately not. The problem is that it’s bad for all of the wrong reasons.
Disguised by pretty camerawork (and a heck of a lot of slow-motion), the film primarily lacks a good story. American Muscle follows John Falcon, a man who’s fresh out of the slammer and looking to exact sweet revenge on all of those who put him there. As to why he’s in prison, that doesn’t get explained until the tail end of the film, so hold your breath. Meanwhile, John’s got to find out where the love of his life, Darling (yes, roll your eyes), has ended up during his 10 long years behind bars. We’ll give you a hint: she isn’t running for office.
We waited and waited for the plot to really kick into gear, but were left with unexplained flashbacks, convenient coincidences and a general lack of stakes for the characters. Not to get all film-buff-y on you, but even bad movies need an interesting plot. It is abundantly clear that director Ravi Dhar (we've never heard of him either) is a cinematographer first, and director last.
Another glaring problem we had with this film was the characters. We know that, generally, female character development can be rudimentary when it comes to bad cinema (no Oscar-worthy performances here), but this film takes it to a new low. The women are there for you to look at, and not much else. There was not one female character wearing pants throughout the entire film. Worst of all is Darling, who we are never given the chance to care about because she’s strung out in virtually every single scene. By the end of it all, the audience doesn't care whether John got to her or not (spoiler: there’s a twist).
The bottom line: Save for some laughably bad acting, American Muscle just ain’t worth it. Seriously.