This weekend marks the end of Wimbledon, and I see no better way to celebrate the conclusion of two weeks of people dressed in white, politely batting balls back and forth, than having a lot of sweaty, shirtless blokes bash each other about for a couple of hours. That’s right, this week’s theme is beat ‘em up sports bruisers, but all three have fascinating and textured parental relationships at their core – there’s more than just violence to be savoured here.
Friday Night – Warrior – Genre: Sports Drama
Be prepared to exact massive amounts of joy from watching an enormous (the neck!) Tom Hardy beat the living snot out of a variety of pumped up MMA knobheads. He and Joel Edgerton star as estranged brothers fighting in a mixed martial arts tournament with a huge payout, but at its core this is really a family drama. The fights (as someone who has no real love for the sport), are immensely satisfying and well executed, and the cast (particularly Hardy, who is quite brilliant) mix in strong performances to produce a film that is gripping from the start. The first gym fight is a personal highlight.
Saturday Night – The Wrestler – Genre: Sports Drama
Mickey Rourke steps outside his comfort zone and astounds in this drama that focuses on the (fictional) life of washed up wrestler Randy ‘The Ram Robinson’. Both wonderfully tender and unbearably brutal at times, the film juggles the action in the ring with the emotion outside brilliantly. Wrestling is a sport so often mocked within the common culture but this manages to cut to its tragic heart and provide a startling portrait of a fallen idol that bridges genres and just might bring a tear to your eye. Goosebumps are a guarantee in the climax.
Sunday Night – Creed – Genre: Sports Drama
I expect many of you will be left feeling understandably deflated after Saturday’s events so we’re going to close out the week on a high. Creed shares an unexpected star turn from an aging action hero as Stallone turns in an impressive performance, but the feeling of deflation is not on this agenda. The film is in some regards a franchise reboot of a Rocky series that may have become a little stale, but really stands on its own two legs as an incredibly sound and well-made boxing picture. While the underdog arc is typically familiar, the notes of heart and humour that run through it keep it charming and fresh. Again, exquisitely executed and directed fights form the essential backbone of the film as Adonis (Michael B Jordan) works his way through the cannon fodder before the ball-slapping, knock-down, wince-inducing climax. As with our other two films, the strength of performances across the board help keep this in the classy tier of sports movies even if you don’t enjoy watching two blokes bash the living hell out of each other.
But you’ll get so much more out of this weekend’s watching if you do.
(Image courtesy of Chuck Zlotnick/Lionsgate)