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dir Gavin O'Connor
prd Greg O'Connor
scr Gavin O'Connor, Anthony Tambakis, Cliff Dorfman
with Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo, Kevin Dunn, Jake McLaughlin, Vanessa Martinez, Denzel Whitaker, Gavin O'Connor, Noah Emmerich, Kurt Angle
release US 9.Sep.11, UK 23.Sep.11
11/US Lionsgate 2h20
Face-off: Hardy and Edgerton
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
This film may be a real crowd-pleaser, but it's also a shameless string of movie cliches from start to finish. Thankfully, the excellent cast keeps it afloat, holding our interest and getting us to cheer even though we don't really care how it ends.
After running away from home with his mother some 15 years earlier, ex-soldier Tommy (Hardy) drops in on his drunken dad Paddy (Nolte). Tommy isn't impressed that Pop has found God and remained sober for three years, but he agrees to let Pop coach him again as a mixed martial arts fighter. Meanwhile, Tommy's brother Brendan (Edgerton) is estranged from both his brother and his dad. A family man teaching physics at a Philadelphia high school, he's in trouble with the bank over a dodgy mortgage, so returns to his Ultimate Fighter roots.
With a huge championship match coming up, the brothers are on a collision course to meet in the final. Yes, the plot's about as subtle as a stream of steady blows to the head, and the filmmakers don't miss a punch (sorry!) as they trawl through every fight movie to grab scenes of physical action, dark melodrama, sweet romance and of course sloppy sentimentality. As if that weren't enough, the final act is narrated play-by-play by two hyperbolic ringside announcers (Bryan Callen and Sam Sheridan).
And it's so relentless that it wears down our resistance, pressing our face against the cage fence and screaming, "You will cry now!" And it works. Along with some meaningful subtext about masculinity, the corny story manages to get under the skin. As the parallel plotlines finally converge in Atlantic City, there is real suspense as we wait for everyone to discover the big secret.
Hardy and Edgerton are adept actors, skilled at using their outrageously beefed-up physiques to convey elements of their characters that are missing from the blunt script. And Nolte does much more than expected with his badly underwritten role. Together, they make sure that we are gripped by this epic battle between the well-trained good guy and the scrappy mystery man. And of course we know that the real victory has nothing to do with the $5 million prize.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
|rivercup: "Reading this review I'd think the movie was not so good but I was surprisingly touched by Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte in this movie. It's much better than the reviews make it out to be. It's main themes are letting go and forgiveness." (31.Jul.12)|
© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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