Movie Review: “Battle Scars” wraps PTSD in strippers, drug dealers and crooks


“Battle Scars” wraps itself in the flag, the Corps, the Purple Heart and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

But really, it’s just a lowdown and dirty B-thriller set in the underworld of any city in America that Johnny comes marching home to.

“Johnny” in this case is Luke Stephens, played by Zane Holtz of the TV version of “From Dusk Till Dawn.” Luke is just back from Afghanistan and has locked himself in the bathroom where he can stare in the mirror, or look down at the bodily injury settlement check he got from Uncle Sam.

He doesn’t seem to be missing any limbs. There’s no empty shirt-sleeve, no limp, just the screeching of his concerned “You won’t TOUCH me” wife (Amy Davidson) to clue us in on his injury. He silently packs a bag and storms out, into a strip club where he runs afoul of credit card theft, then he drops in on his low-level drug-dealer brother (Ryan Eggold).

But brother Nicky is having a fling with one of the strippers, and “Summer” (Kristen Renton) is best buds with Michelle (Heather McComb), the fishnet-bedecked fox who filched Luke’s card numbers to finance a shopping spree.

And that little crime entangles Luke in Michelle’s world — her Russian thug-boss (Fairuza Balk, scary as ever) and that boss’s muscle (Jamal Woolard, best known for playing Biggie Smalls in a couple of movies).


There are beat-downs and threats, kidnapping and confrontations with “The Colonel,” the brothers’ nickname for their Corps-to-the-Core dad (David James Elliott).

” I KNEW that Purple Heart was going to go to your head!”

Every now and then, there’s a flashback. Luke only remembers that last day of combat in Afghanistan, different details come forward in every dream. There’s little hint of PTSD in the script, or Holtz’s performance. It doesn’t drive the plot or really connect to the mess he finds himself in.

It’s forgotten altogether when Luke gets into tussles. Fellows in his condition shouldn’t submit themselves to a beating, “hero” or not. And the reasons this married man takes an interest in the stripper who stole from him are as laughable as the surprise third-act “twist.”

There’s one touching scene — just one. It hints at a movie that might have been, one that didn’t involve strippers and strip clubs. The performances are mostly flat, but let’s not lay this mess at the feet of the actors.

The assorted fights and arguments are blandly written and staged by writer-director Danny Buday. And he does a less-than-half-hearted job of working his big PTSD subtext into his utterly generic thriller.

But there are opening and closing titles that throw statistics about injuries, the alarming suicide rate among veterans of the Afghan and Iraq wars. So, um, support the troops and see it? Is that what he had in mind?


MPAA Rating: unrated, with graphic violence, combat, drug content and strip club sexual content.

Cast: Zane Holtz, Fairuza Balk, Jamal Woolard

Credits:Written and directed by Danny Buday. A Gravitas Ventures release.

Running time: 1:34

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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