Having read nothing about this movie going in and only seeing what was available in the trailer, I figured I had a fairly good idea of how this story unfolds and for the most part I was correct. What I was not expecting was an engrossing story about a family broken by abuse (both substance and physical) and how the members of that family struggled not only with each other, but with their individual lives as well. As I walked out of the theater, my first thought was how, out of any film I have watched so far this year, this should be a serious contender for the coveted Best Picture Oscar.
The casting of this movie was absolutely perfect with rising stars Tom Hardy of Inception fame and Joel Edgerton, who's previous claim to fame was recreating the role of Uncle Owen in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, playing brothers Tommy and Brendan respectively. Nick Nolte plays the brothers' recovering alcoholic father and should get plenty of mention in the conversation of best supporting actor for this standout performance.
These three men are the main focus of the story and each actor goes all out in creating very rich and well thought out characters and you truly believe in their stories of hardship and struggle. Other supporting roles are filled by more than capable performers including Jennifer Morrison, Kevin Dunn, and Frank Grillo.
Given the story line of an all or nothing, winner take all MMA championship tournament that the brothers find themselves competing in, one might think the story would easily fall in to the category of similar tales like Rocky or the Karate Kid and for the most part it does cover that rags to riches story we've seen before. Where it differs is how the fighting is used more as a backdrop and even as metaphor for what the family is going through in real life.
The fight sequences are all choreographed and filmed brilliantly and, even if you are not a fan of MMA fighting (you can put me in that camp), you will still find yourself so emotionally involved that by the time the film reaches its final bout, you will feel like you just went several rounds in the ring yourself .
I've got to say I was a little surprised with the end result, but it was still very satisfying and brings proper conclusion to a story that will have run you through just about every emotion you can think of. If you are the type of person that is known to shed a few tears while at the movie theater, I would definitely recommend stashing some Kleenex in your pocket as this film will more than likely draw them out.
This movie impressed me on so many levels and director/writer/producer Gavin O'Connor should absolutely be up for multiple awards along with his fine cast and the picture itself. Yes, it is that good so please go see this movie in the theater and be prepared to witness film making at its finest.