This Shakespearean story resolves around the Conlon clan in Pittsburgh, ripped asunder by Paddy (Nick Nolte), its alcoholic patriarch. The now-sober Paddy encounters his estranged son Tommy (Tom Hardy), a former amateur wrestling champ and U.S. Marine, who now wants his father to train him for an upcoming MMA tournament. On the other side of town, Tom's older brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton), an ex-MMA fighter, steps back into the cage after he is suspended from his job as a high school teacher and faces the foreclosure of his home. Against the backdrop of a full-realized family drama, writer-director Gavin O'Connor (Miracle
) critiques predatory lending and the war in Iraq while also managing to incorporate references to Beethoven, Moby-Dick
and the ancient Greek athlete Theogenes. And, among a uniformly tremendous cast, the unquestioned revelation is Hardy, whose performance is—dare I say—Brando-esque.