Friday, February 03, 2012


Film: Warrior
Where I saw it: LA at home on blu-ray
With with: Loner style
Rating: ****

Well, it didn't take long for me to watch a film from 2011 that I wish I could put on my "tops" list I just published. A few days after my gigantic list of favorite films, writers, actors, directors and whatnot, I see one that I wish I could have put on there in a couple of categories. The fact that the film is Warrior, a testosterone fueled MMA [mixed martial arts] based film is the reason I didn't see it in a theatre. Now, I'm kicking myself for skipping it when it was playing to good reviews as it's surprisingly kind of awesome. Maybe MMA, which is exploding in popularity, will produce more good films based on the primal act of mano y mano combat, as this is the second really good MMA film in the past few years [David Mamet's Red Belt in 2008] that I enjoyed.

The inevitable comparisons to Rocky [or how about Tough Enough from 1983?]are so obvious, let's get that right out of the way early and be done with it. The story centers around a couple of unknowns, who enter a winner-take-all of 5 million dollar purse, sixteen man tournament. Here's the kicker: two of the men are brothers! Director [and one of the film's three writers] Gavin O'Connor lays on the emotional powder keg even thicker though by tossing in the fact the pair survived an extremely dysfunctional upbringing with raging alcoholic father [Nick Nolte is back and he has an Oscar nod for best supporting actor to prove it]. There's more. They haven't seen one another in fourteen years, since younger brother [Tom Hardy] left with Mom to escape while big brother [Joel Edgerton] stayed with dad to get married, have kids and become a high school teacher.

What are these two guys fighting for? O'Connor's got that covered too to pull you into to committing to the winner. One brother is fighting to save his house from foreclosure, the other is fighting in memory of a fallen Marine when he was serving in Iraq. This sounds like quite a bit of heavy handed overkill when I write it down, but it plays with more direct simplicity on the screen. My antenna is always on alert when it comes to manipulative filmmaking, but I never felt that with Warrior. Is it melodrama with fists, blood, kicks and MMA? Yes. But, it works way more than I thought it would and I found myself enjoying the set-up and the bouts as we drew to the final match that will see brother against brother.

Warrior, despite my description above regarding the melodramatic storyline, mostly has a simple restraint to it. The three main male actors are either likable [Edgerton], taut with anger [Hardy] or paralyzed by regret [Nolte]. All three actors give lean performances that make the film more credible. O'Connor films the MMA fighting with a level of realness too that makes the action in the ring believable. Hardy looks like he could step into the octagon right now and take someone out with his hulking, raging intensity. Warrior is one of those films that reward you with your low expectations as you watch it. With every new scene, you start to get more involved in the story and by the its end, you wish you'd put it into your top fifteen films of 2011 list. At least, that was the case for me.


Guy Gadbois said...

i avoided this movie for the same reasons for so long & once i finally watched it, i loved it!

Joshua Blevins Peck said...

I love being surprised by a film when it takes me to unexpected places as a viewer--WARRIOR is a perfect example of that kind of film.