I watched this film on the recommendation of my husband. He mentioned that it was available on demand via our cable package. He had seen it and had been pleasantly surprised. I really like Tom Hardy but I find the subject matter of men beating each other for money difficult. I would never watch such an event in real life. However, as a backdrop for fictional narrative, I am not adverse, if the story is compelling. I have mixed feelings about this one and it has little to do with the fighting.

Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton portray estranged brothers, Tommy and Brendan Conlon, respectively, who find themselves pitted against each other in a UFC cage for a $5 million dollar purse. Nick Nolte plays their estranged alcoholic father, Paddy. The acting in this film is the best part. I enjoyed the character development. Both men are drawn sympathetically. Joel is a family man with a sick child, staggering medical bills and a house on the cusp of foreclosure. Tommy is an army vet with his own noble goals for the prize money. To say more would be risking spoiler territory.

This film is really about a dysfunctional family and MMA fighting is a metaphor for the conflict between an abusive father and two brothers who couldn’t stand together against him. I like this idea a lot and wish I could like the movie more than I did. The plot holes, especially regarding Tommy’s journey back from war weaken the overall experience. Refreshingly, it is hard to pick a favorite brother. Sadly, I did predict which one would win based on some of the many Hollywood cliches that bring this movie out of great territory and comfortably into the realm of good. I hoped to be surprised. The performances are really stupendous, making this film enjoyable and moving.


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