Director: Gavin O’Connor (Wrote & Directed Miracle)
Starring: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte
I remember watching a guy named Royce Gracie (Pronounced “Hoyce”) win against a much bigger opponent in the first Ultimate Fighting Championship. He walked right up to the guy with a really stupid-looking stance that didn’t look practical in a real fight. I quickly realized it was a defensive stance, meant to allow him to get in close without taking too much punishment, and grapple the other guy to the ground.
After they were on the ground, it was quick work for him to get the guy in a dangerous submission and win the fight. I was the first time I’d seen Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
And then the guy did it two more times, against much bigger men, and won the first UFC.
I was hooked. From then on, I was a fan of mixed martial arts.
Almost 20 years and 140 major UFC events later, the multiple-fights-in-one-night format isn’t the standard. There are months in between fights in the UFC to let the fighters be at peak performance.
But it’s an exciting format, and it’s how the movie’s second half unfolds. The movie’s fights themselves are really well done. There are no flashy moves. No spinning aerial kicks a la Jean-Claude Van Damme. They decided to keep it realistic in the film. So the fights are not the least bit Hollywood’d up, but the fights are only part of what makes this movie great.
Tom Hardy, chameleon
Some actors are able to transform into roles. Johnny Depp can do it, Bryce Dallas Howard can do it. Added to that list now is Tom Hardy. I saw the movie before seeing many trailers or previews. I didn’t even think I’d seen these actors before – Nick Nolte and the girl from the early seasons of House were the most recognizable actors in the movie for me.
So when I got home and saw that Tom Hardy from Inception was in the movie, I thought to myself, “Where was he?” And then I realized it was one of the main characters:
Heh. Look at how he can transform:
They did an amazing job of portraying a family torn apart by hard times. Nolte plays the aging father figure trying to make it to 1,000 days sober after letting the bottle destroy his family years ago.
Hardy plays the younger son who left with his mother, and went into the marines, enduring having those closest to him be ripped away time and time again.
Edgerton plays the older son who got away to make a life for himself with a family of his own.
Overall, the pacing, acting, cinematography, music, and everything else come together in a wrenching, well done film. I’ll admit it, I teared up more than once – I found myself doing so unexpectedly, the sad parts were so subtle in their buildup.
A movie worth checking out if you are into MMA. There are even some cameos by Rashad Evans and Stephan Bonner of UFC fame, just for fun.
My score: A-