I admit to being a little biased going into this movie. I love me some Tom Hardy and I love me some MMA, so the two of them together almost spelled success for me from the start.
Ex-Marine Tommy (Tom Hardy) comes home after 14 years and enlists his now-sober father (Nick Nolte/the man responsible for his leaving in the first place) to help train for SPARTA, the biggest Mixed Martial Arts tournament in history. Brendan (Joel Edgerton) is a physics teacher with a wife, two kids, and a mortgage that threatens to take his house away in 90 days. After being suspended without pay, he must take up the old job of fighting to help keep his family afloat and somehow finds his way into SPARTA. Tommy and Brendan are brothers that have not spoken since the day Tommy and their mother ran from their father and the drunken, abusive life he was forcing them to live. Now they are on a collision course that lets them fight out their pain inside an octagon.
I hope I'm not stepping out of line here but I think this may be the best movie that I have seen this year. Amazing fights. Amazing acting. And, most surprising to me, amazing heart. Tom Hardy is brilliant as always as the hurt-filled Tommy. The movie's very first scene has Nick Nolte (and welcome back, good sir. Where has this acting been hiding all these years?) coming home to find Tommy sitting at his doorstep, drunk. From the start, you get how dark and bleak Tommy's outlook on life is and Hardy conveyed that perfectly. Feeling lost and alone for all these years, Tommy doesn't hold back his feelings as he continually reminds Nolte about the drinking and the physical abuse he put them through. He's an angry man with a lot of pain looking to put a good hurting on whomever steps in front of him.
Nick Nolte was great as the father just looking to move forward. He's ashamed of what he has done and been but he doesn't know how to say sorry for doing it. You can tell he takes all the guilt of everything onto his shoulders and doesn't know how to keep standing now. He thinks Tommy coming back is the first door to that recovery but all he finds are two sons who are unwilling to forgive and trust the man that let them down all those years ago.
And Joel Edgerton is the breakout for me. This guy has been in King Arthur (fun but pretty stupid) and Star Wars (and we all know how amazing the acting is in those movies) and that's all I know of him and I want that to change. Brendan is the one who got saved. He stayed behind because he fell in love and he's worked hard to get a life he is finally happy with (you know, except for the financial troubles). Edgerton had the task of balancing a character that wants nothing more than to provide for his now-family while trying to heal his then-family and, like everyone else, he nails it.
And to top everything off, the fighting was amazing. Hardy and Edgerton both looked like they trained massively hard to be in fighting condition. There's always that movie that kinda just skips on the authenticity of things like fighting in order to focus on the story and it shows that this wasn't one of them. The fighting is as much a character as Brendan and Tommy. It's the glue that is trying to be used to bring this family back together and they put a lot of effort into it.
I really can't say enough, great things about this movie. I wanted to watch it again as soon as it was over. Amazing movie and I absolutely say you should run to the theaters to see it.