Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, 2011. Lionsgate, Mimran Schur Pictures, Solaris, Filmtribe. Story by Gavin O’Connor, Cliff Dorfman, Screenplay by Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis, Cliff Dorfman. Cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi. Produced by Gavin O’Connor, Greg O’Connor. Music by Mark Isham. Production Design by Dan Leigh. Costume Design by Abigail Murray. Film Editing by Sean Albertson, Matt Cheese, John Gilroy, Aaron Marshall. Academy Awards 2011. Online Film Critics Awards 2011.
It’s about MMA fighting and not boxing, but do you really think the story is going to be that much different from the other tales of underdogs in the ring? You get two for the price of one in this enjoyable tale of brothers (Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton) split apart by tragedy and trauma, having grown up under their violently alcoholic father (Nick Nolte) and now estranged from him even though he has cleaned up and is begging for forgiveness. Hardy has appeared out of nowhere and tells his dad he wants him to be his trainer for a big UFC-esque tournament in Atlantic City, his purposes a secret until the end of the film, while sibling Edgerton is a retired fighter whose salary as a high school teacher sees him unable to make his mortgage payments. After the school suspends him for taking part in a local scuffle in the parking lot of a strip club, Edgerton decides to get fully back in to the game despite the hesitation of wife Jennifer Morrison (in the most mundane of what someone once called the “Honey, come to bed” roles) and the fact that he puts himself at great physical risk. There’s no way someone would make a movie about two brothers who are both fighters unless it was to have them oppose each other at the end, so why make a two and half hour movie leading up to the inevitable? Not to mention that the conflict with their father is where the good drama is but it is shunted aside far too quickly (which makes no sense given that it is where the story begins, and Hardy rejects his father far too quickly after having sought him out to begin with, which his father never calls him on). Such plot holes are easily forgiven considering it is entertaining even if it is not original, emphasizing impressive acting and some wickedly painful scenes of combat before the glorious ending. It stumbles over itself when it indulges in contrived moments of overly-scored glory, but if it’s what you’re in the mood for, you won’t be sorry.