Jerry (Jackie Chan) has trained hard to become an expert fighter, and when his father's restaurant is threatened with being taken over by the gangsters of crime boss Dominici (José Ferrer) Jerry finds he has to defend his friends and family. But Dominici has plans for Jerry that involve a no-holds barred fighting match in the Texas town of Battle Creek...
Jackie Chan was one of the biggest stars in the world at the time this was produced, but not in America, so The Big Brawl represented his attempt to get a hit in West. Unfortunately, it didn't do as well as he had hoped, despite the presence of writer and director Robert Clouse, who had directed Enter the Dragon for Bruce Lee, and Chan had to wait until the nineties when he started having successes in the U.S.A. (The Cannonball Run doesn't really count, does it?)
The film plays safe for most of its running time, sticking so closely to the typical Chan formula that it becomes episodic - the only thing that's missing is one of his spectacular stunts. Jerry's father doesn't want him to lead a life of violence, he also has a mentor (Mako) to teach him the most effective fighting methods, he has a friend who is beaten up (for that all-important revenge angle), and there's a drop of comedy along with the action (although nothing too hilarious).
Those action sequences are good enough, including a raucous roller skating race with obstacles like jets of water, jumps onto matresses and aggressive competitors. The final contest itself features a bunch of brawny combatants who look more like wrestlers, and tower over Chan (there's a David and Goliath thing going on). They fight like wrestlers, too, except for one bloke who uses the unconventional method of climbing into a car and trying to run Jerry over with it.
In his first English-speaking role, Chan's delivery has a heavy accent, which may be why his dialogue is kept to a minimum. José Ferrer makes an unlikely Mr Big, especially as his mother is more threatening, and he doesn't even get his comeuppance at the end, despite all the trouble he's caused for our hero. In fact, all the loose ends are tied up in the most perfunctory fashion, but never mind, while this may not be the best of Chan's movies, it provides some entertainment for the most part - if only his opponents were better fighters. Whistley music by Lalo Schifrin.