Here's a review I never dreamed I would write, for three good reasons: 1) I don't like blood sports. 2) I avoid sports clichés. 3) I'm not fond of Nick Nolte. I don't think I would have liked this 2011 movie quite so much if I hadn't watched the extras on the DVD. They provided some insight for a rabid MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) non-fan (ME!), which helped get me past the blood and the pain those folks inflict on one another and try to understand the underlying skills. Sorta like football: Two teams of over- grown hulks pummeling each other into hamburger, but there IS skill involved, right?

Sooooo... Bottom line: 1) I still don't like blood sports. 2) Clichés become clichés because on a very basic level, they work. 3) I still don't like Nick Nolte. But that wrenching final match stayed with me long enough to warrant a review. (I watch a lot of movies I don't review.)

We have a pair of brothers. When they were children, one split with Mom when her marriage broke up, the other stayed with their alcoholic father. Neither had an easy time of it. Now, one is a returning Marine vet, the other is a Physics teacher with a wife and children. Through a series of clichés, they end up back in the MME cage, fighting their way toward the championship. By the time they have come this far, we want BOTH of them to win!

We have:
  • Nick Nolte ("Three Fugitives") Let's get him out of the way first. He hits all his marks and delivers the goods, I just don't like the goods he delivers. You know, the contrite former alcoholic who is really, really sorry. I agree with his sons: Talk is cheap, but the damage is done. We can't un-ring the bell here, Dad!
  • Tom Hardy ("This Means War") is the former Marine. The American accent used by this British-born bloke convinced me he was from Pittsburgh! His war veteran bristles with hostility and rage: perfect for the MMA cage!
  • Joel Edgerton ("Kinky Boots") no trace of Down Under in this guy's American accent either! His character is a sweet, much-loved high-school teacher with a loyal wife and two adored little girls.
  • Jennifer Morrison ("Star Trek" 2009) is that loyal wife. She understands the very real danger her husband is exposed to and does NOT want another ride in an ambulance!
  • Frank Grillo ("The Grey") is a long-time family friend and coach who knows the family dynamics at play here. He has a good reason why Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" is the entrance music for his fighter.
There is a lot of showmanship involved in MMA matches and this movie manages to capture it. Luckily the matches only bookend the REAL issues at stake here and both of the lead actors are skilled enough to capture our attention and our allegiance, to the point that we actually CARE what happens in the cage.

It was that last round that got me!
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Here is a link to a preview:
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