I watch a lot of movies, I'd say roughly 12-15 a week. I'm a stay at home dad and I watch them while I cook, clean, and as I am settling down to sleep. I have been doing it for a loooong time. I like movies. So when it comes to rating them, I suppose it's only natural that I dole out a lot of 4 stars. However, because I have seen so many, each movie in itself must compete with a list of films which includes most of the greatest creations ever captured on camera. So the 5 stars are much more rare. To say a film has made my own private top 10 list means I have found it better than hundreds upon hundreds of films. This one makes it to my top 5.
Yes, the acting is amazing. The cinematography is outstanding. The balance of action and drama is frankly matched only by "Apocalypse Now" and that director had to steal off into the jungle with a blank check and blow up half the Philippines to accomplish what he did. However, this movie is, in my opinion, unique in way that is not capable of being described by a word or blurb. There is no award for the thing that made this film so great. I will try to describe its nature, though.
To me, it had elements of many eras and styles of film which I would have considered impossible to combine. I saw here the over the top symbolism of the 60's; think "To Kill a Mockingbird." I saw here the gritty but tightly focused individualism of the 70's; think "Mean Streets," or the more obvious "Rocky." I saw here the blatant emotionalism of the 80's, think "The Breakfast Club." I saw here the academic referential dalliance of the 90's; think "Miller's Crossing," I saw here the journalistic aloofness of the post millennial films; think "Hurt Locker." Each of these iconic films represents, to me, a stylistic tendency that might evoke either praise or criticism on the part of the viewer as the vagaries of personal taste and fashion of the moment dictate. Certainly, before I saw this film, I would have thought some of these styles not only incompatible but mutually exclusive. The plot weave is also very odd. The slow merging of storyline might bring to mind such films as "Traffic" or "Babel" but where those films slowly reveal a connection of the unexpected, this film slowly reveals a connection of the inevitable. By the time I finished my first run of this film, I was left with the feeling that I had watched at least three separate but fantastically emotional films in the space of a little more than 2 hours. I had only absently clicked on the title at bedtime guided by a vague disposition towards fight movies and an appreciation of the versatility of Ben Hardy. I stopped rewatching it after the light of morning was streaming through the bedroom windows.
In an attempt to find a critical appraisal that was less than shining as I groped for a way to more holistically define what I had just experienced, I did stumble across the word cliché. I would say that it was cliché like Homer.
It might be a man thing, too, possibly. Even for a fight movie there was a whole lot of time spent on action in the ring. But that was another thing. There is not just one climactic fight. There are like 4 or so. How is it possible to have more than one climax? It's difficult to describe. Maybe that's more of a woman thing. I have to say that when it was over I didn't want to roll over and go to sleep. Instead I wanted to sit around and talk about my feelings.