Sorry for the cliché. Yes, it's dark, and sure, it can be depressing. And for those approaching it with a video game mentality it's not exactly action-packed. But from a psychological standpoint, for insight into a man and a family cornered by bad luck and scummy people, this is some of the richest, truest material I've yet to see on the little screen.
Start - and really end - with Holt McCallany. As Patrick Leary this man gives one of the most layered, convincing performances I've ever had the pleasure to watch. Every gesture, every fleeting facial snapshot, exposes the hurt of a proud man who has to beg for a break, for things to work out just one more time. Watch him have to deal with his children, with his wife, and see the uncertainty of a hard man who hates what he's doing. Except that it's for them, and for himself, and the conflict eats him away like acid. I've never seen him in anything else, but I'd literally pay to watch McCallany as Lights Leary.
The supporting cast falls short. Catherine McCormack as his wife Theresa is a perpetual nervous breakdown in waiting. Her only emotion is quivering, moist-eyed brittleness. Stacy Keach has either lost his chops or, more likely, been hamstrung by his one-dimensional role as old-school hard ass. Reg Cathey as the Don King stand-in is such a leering caricature of cartoon villainy you can't take him seriously. Leary's brother Johnny - Pablo Schreiber - has the odd handicap of a face that seems stuck in a slightly goofy, what-me-worry expression that flattens most of his scenes. The one exception to this surrounding blandness, for me, is Eamonn Walker as the renegade trainer. As an oddball paranoid who's either been born or beaten out of round, he plays the role with an understated, slightly loony intensity that rings weird and true.
McCallany, not truly a physical heavyweight, has learned to spar and train convincingly. The buildup to his fights is slow, excruciating, and wracked with the fear and tension of real battle. The fight scenes grip, not for their verisimilitude but because of the psychological freight they pack.
But, oh - Holt McCallany. Whether you like family drama, boxing, or just studying the technique of a man immersed in character, he alone is worth the price of a ticket. You cannot afford to miss him in this.