It’s true that if you’ve seen one inspirational, underdog sports movie, it feels like you’ve seen them all. But it’s also true that when they are done properly, they are just awesome to watch, and this is a great example. If the movie was only about Brendan, it would be nowhere near as effective. The addition of Tommy not only gives us a second protagonist to root for, but also adds the element that truly makes the film work: family. Sure, the cliches are there, and the convenience factor is high, but with acting this good and execution this excellent, the film overcomes its own tropes in resounding fashion. By the time the bell sounds in the climactic fight, we are fully invested and feel deeply for both fighters. We believe in both Brendan and Tommy, from the emotional pain behind each punch thrown to the physical sting when they land. Everything is believable, despite the familiar territory. From a technical standpoint, it’s a marvelous film. The direction is spot-on (which didn’t shock me, as O’Connor directed my favorite sports movie of all gims, Miracle), the performances are great (Hardy, Edgerton and Nolte all excel in their roles), and the combination of editing and choreography add a lot of impact to already brutal fight scenes. This is an absolute home run that I highly recommend checking out.
Plus, as a lifelong wrestling fan, how am I NOT supposed to love a movie with Kurt Angle channeling his inner Ivan Drago?!