(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)
Why I added it to my queue: Because when this first came out, it was touted as an early favorite for the coming awards season, and for good reason: the story of two estranged blue-collar brothers (one do-gooder, one rebellious) who share a love for the quasi-sport known as "ultimate fighting" or "mixed martial arts," and who use an upcoming tournament as a way of reconnecting with their gruff, formerly alcoholic father, this shares an almost identical milieu and tone as last year's The Fighter and The Wrestler from the year before that, both of which went on to become irresistible Oscar bait.
The reality: Oh, pretty good, I suppose; but man, does this film wear its emotional manipulation on its sleeve about as nakedly as possible, a script that feels like screenwriters Anthony Tambakis, Cliff Dorfman and Gavin O'Connor (the last also the director) basically analyzed every award-winning family drama in the last decade based around a blue-collar activity for what exactly made them so popular to begin with, then literally went down the list and included every single item in their crowd-pleasing but shamelessly tearjerking own. (And speaking of manipulation, this film's breathless exaltation of the commercial "UFC" organization and basic-cable staple might just be the most unapologetic two-hour commercial for an un-deserving made-up "sport" since Fred Savage's 1989 feature-length ad for Nintendo known as The Wizard.) I mean, it's a satisfying watch, which is the whole point, but the strings of this particular puppet are even more visible than normal; and perhaps that's why it hasn't been doing as well during this year's actual awards season as people had expected it to when it first came out, because of it feeling like it's taking you on an unwanted ride the whole time you're watching it. An interesting movie that's definitely worth your time if you just happen to catch it on cable or whatever, but not a film I would particularly recommend going out of your way to rent.
Strangest piece of trivia: The scenes set in Iraq were actually shot in a parking lot on the outskirts of Pittsburgh.
Worth your time? Kinda