* * * 1/2
(Martial Arts With a Message)
The last thing in the world I thought we would both enjoy was a movie about the violent world of Mixed Martial Arts.
What makes this movie different is the relationships between a once abusive father (Nick Nolte) and his two grown sons, both of whom handled their situation differently.
Brendan (Joel Edgerton) married, had children, remained in the community, gave up boxing, and became a high school physics teacher.
Younger brother Tommy (Tom Hardy) left with his abused and ill mother, joined the Marines after her death, and eventually returned home.
Both hated their father with a vengeance.
Both sought the $5 million dollar prize foe winning the brutal Sparta mixed martial arts competition.
Tommy asks his father to coach him, even though he despised him. Brendan turned to an old friend.
Yes, it all comes down to the final fight, and you know who the two fighters will be, but along the way we get an emotional and poignant look at how two abused and abandoned brothers deal with their anger and hate toward their father.
Nolte is great as the guilt-ridden old man who has not had a drink in a thousand days, found God, and seeks forgiveness from his sons, who reject him at every turn.
Both desperately need the prize money. The bank is about to foreclose on Brendan's house, and he is suspended from teaching because of his fighting ambitions. Tommy is broke and running from a big secret that finally comes to the surface.
So many movies come down to the big fight, and this one follows the pattern, but with a different, surprising, and poignant conclusion.
It is all about making difficult choices, foregiveness, and right and wrong.
Rated PG-13, with the brtality if mixed martial competition, where just about anything goes inside the caged ring. plus some profanity.