It might not add any fresh moves to the inspirational sports movie playbook, but the nicely crafted "American Wrestler: The Wizard," about a teen who escapes from post-revolution Iran only to face hostile discrimination in Northern California circa 1980, possesses a potent timeliness.
Taking its cue from actual events, the drama stars newcomer George Kosturos as Ali Jahani, who has arrived at the Petaluma home of his stern Uncle Hafez (played by the movie's inspiration, Ali Afshar, who is also a producer) in the hope of a better life.
But given the fervently anti-Iranian sentiment stoked by the hostage crisis in Tehran, Ali's new neighbors and classmates prove less than hospitable, as the proliferation of signs reading "We Don't Serve Iranians" and "Terrorists Go Home" reveal.
Desperate to fit in, he eventually finds acceptance on his wrestling team, with the encouragement of his coach (William Fichtner) and despite the reluctance of the school principal (Jon Voight), concerned that Ali's appearance in district meets could incite riots.
Although the various conflicts are efficiently played out in Brian Rudnick's script and director Alex Ranarivelo employs some astute period touches while garnering game performances from his cast, it's ultimately the parallels with the current socio-political climate that obviously resonate.
It may be by-the-book, but "American Wrestler" is a story well worth telling.
'American Wrestler: The Wizard'
Rating: PG-13, for violence, some disturbing images, language and thematic material
Running time: 1 hour, 57 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills