ACTION; 2hr 19min
STARRING: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte
Blood brothers: from left, Hardy, Josh Rosenthal and Edgerton
They don’t mess about in mixed martial arts, a whirligig barefooted combo of high kicks and hard fists. Brothers grim Brendan and Tommy Conlon (Edgerton and Hardy) have grown up fighting but have moved on from that and from their despised, recovering alcoholic father (Nolte). Brendan has a family and a high-school physics teaching job, and former Marine Tommy has sunk into soured pillhead numbness. The family is completely splintered, but a $5 million cash prize at a major Atlantic City tournament is propelling them into a reckoning with the past.
Writer-director Gavin O’Connor (Miracle) has certainly got depth of feeling covered in his mammoth and unrelenting beast, ditto big-ticket stadium trappings. So why its lo-fi buzz? Maybe they wrote the book on underdog comebacks with Rocky and, most recently, The Fighter, but none of the components here — the nursing of unhealed hurts, the adrenaline spikes of the fights and the inevitable familial resolution — wields the power it should. Hardy and Edgerton’s dedication is admirable: both take a torrid and minutely detailed pounding. It’s hard to be concerned about that, though, when you haven’t bonded with them to begin with.