Top positive review
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Great Drama, Great Action
on 17 October 2011
There is a saying that "there are no new stories" and this is a case in point. As other reviews have pointed out the struggling under dog, two battling brothers, "father issues" and the one last chance to get what you want does mean that this could be the UFC Cinderella Man or coming out in the same year even a bit like the autumn version of The Fighter.
However if you accept that all films have a passing similarity to at least something that's gone before then this is a highly polished example of a familiar tale, it is further enhanced by an excellent script and brilliant acting, Tom Hardy in the space of a year has been the wise cracking forger in Inception, the skittish English spy in Tinker, Tailor and now the huge and powerful ex US Marine Tommy in the warrior, it's hard to believe it's the same guy in all 3 films and yet is completely believable playing these very different characters. Dare I say it, could he be this generation's De Niro? However the role of the now sober alcoholic and abusive dad was written for Nick Nolte and a bit like the character he's portraying Nick knows this could be a last hurrah and grabs onto the role with both hands giving a performance that is a master class in understated acting (surely a best supporting actor nomination in the Oscars?). Then Joel Edgerton plays the most likeable of the central trio as the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts- don't call them cage fighters!) fighter who after getting badly hurt turned to teaching, but now has to step back into the ring. He may not have the power house moments of the other 2 but he's the easiest character to root for as it's simply win fights or lose his house and as he has a wife and 2 small kids it's an emotional resonance perfect for the current domestic anxieties across the globe.
Indeed like the first Rocky this is a film very much of it's time- recession, foreign war, war widows are the current sign of the times and adds a level of reality to what isn't a true a story but in the future you will just know this has to be set around 2011. However the main thing to add spice to this impressively grown up mixture is this is an MMA sports film not a boxing film and that's an important difference, having only ever seen 1 UFC fight on TV I was not ready for the electrifying fights. We've all seen enough boxing in films to know the basic moves even if you aren't a fight fan, however here almost anything goes, so you go from familiar exchanges of punches to powerful kicks, to the gasps that will come out of you when somebody gets thrown to the floor, to being up close and personal in the horrifyingly intimate grapples. There's simply more for a film maker to show then just above the belt punches and blocks. This is what makes the quest of the central characters even more frantic and even a little tragic- these are desperate men indeed.
A must see film that didn't make a huge wave under initial cinema release, possibly because the topic wasn't the more familiar boxing, possibly because there were no big names either in front of or behind the camera but this film needs to get a bigger audience and hopefully here on DVD/BluRay that discovery will start.
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