Sports movies are very hit and miss. Hollywood knows that and that’s why you don’t see a plethora of them in any given year. When a sports movie is right, and it’s authentic and hits on all cylinders it’s like poetry in motion.
Gavin O’Connor of “Pride and Glory” fame was the director and one of the writers of this unique screenplay. Back in the day there were quite a few “classic” boxing movies but now that sport has been eclipsed by MMA (mixed martial arts) and the league UFC in particular, and that is the backdrop for this gem.
Joel Edgerton (Brendan Conlon) who was a part of Episodes II and III of the “Star Wars” series, adds a human element to a sport that’s known for its brutality. Tom Hardy (plays his brother Tommy) was in “Inception” and plays Bane in the upcoming movie “The Dark Knight Rises”, is a fighting machine that doesn’t have a lot of love for his brother or his father, Paddy, who becomes his trainer once again played by Academy Award winner Nick Nolte. I’d love to say that every actor in this film was Oscar worthy but instead I would say that the casting was precise and the ensemble cast brought this fabulous story to life.
Kevin Dunn (principal Zito), known for being on the television show “Samantha Who?” adds a comic element to this movie as Brendan’s boss. Jennifer Morrison (Brendan’s wife), who has acted in the television hit “How I Met Your Mother” adds the perfect lines that only a wife could come up with.
Olympic wrestling champion, professional wrestling icon, Kurt Angle plays the “heel”, a Russian named “Koba”. He’s a badass who comes over to fight in a major winner take all, sweet sixteen tournament named, “Sparta”. He really gets the viewer to hate him that’s for sure.
ESPN has many of its MMA commentators on the show as well as UFCers Timothy Katz and Dan Caldwell playing themselves in the flick. Every time a punch or series of punches or kicks connected folks in the theatre reacted. This crowd was very vocal, and why not we are close to Philadelphia where part of the movie was filmed. Pittsburgh was the other main city.
When the two brothers fight for the title get ready to clench your teeth and you should be armed with tissues.
Men, women and children of some ages (because of the violence) will love this movie for many years to come. Lionsgate will be credited for green lighting a classic sports film that should get talked about for a very long time.