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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > Warrior

MOVIE REVIEWS

WARRIOR (2011)

Starring Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Noah Emmerich, Kevin Dunn, Frank Grillo, Denzel Whitaker, Gavin O'Connor, Fernando Chien, Jake McLaughlin, Kevin Christy, Brenna Roth, Laura Kenley, Vanessa Martinez, Maximiliano Hernández, Kurt Angle, Dan Caldwell and Bryan Callen.

Screenplay by Jonathan Newman.

Directed by Gavin O'Connor.

Distributed by Lionsgate Pictures.  140 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

 

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Warrior 

Mixed martial arts have pretty much stolen the fight-world spotlight from boxing, which now feels so old-fashioned.  So it was only a matter of time before MMA also stole the idea of old-fashioned boxing film melodramas. 

Except for the fact that the visuals are flashier and the sport is slightly more violent, Warrior could have easily been made in the 1950s.  Burt Lancaster and Robert Mitchum (or perhaps Marlon Brando and James Dean) would have been right at home as the long-separated brothers who are both trying to pull themselves out of the gutter to become – against all odds – the champion of the world, only to find they stand in each other’s way.  They could have pulled out someone like Noah Beery or Alan Hale to play the estranged former alcoholic father-slash-trainer who is trying desperately to reconnect with his sons.  Then perhaps Sandra Dee or maybe Jean Shrimpton could have been the beautiful, concerned, but ultimately supportive wife. 

It’s just instead of the sweet science, they are selling ultimate fighting. 

Comparing Warrior to these older stories is not meant as a knock on the new movie.  Warrior takes on a tried and true genre of American film and is able to mostly bring it into the YouTube generation.  If the film occasionally gets maudlin and a touch overly melodramatic, well that’s what you have to expect from fight films. 

The good thing is how they are able to take the cheesy, shopworn situations and give them new life.  If you give the storyline of Warrior even the slightest thought with would collapse under the weight of its ridiculous coincidences, contrivances and clichés – but damned if they don’t find a way to make it all work. 

Part of the film’s strength comes from an extremely strong cast.  Luckily they caught on to two big up-and-comers in Hollywood at the brothers.  (Warrior was actually filmed before either actor’s star really started to rise.)  Tom Hardy follows up his breakout role in Inception playing Tom, the hard-edged and bitter fighter and former war hero who basically stumbles into the ring and quickly becomes a phenomenon in Pittsburgh fight circles.  Joel Edgerton (star of the upcoming remake of The Thing) is Brendan, a settled-down and content Philadelphia husband, father and teacher who is forced by financial responsibilities (his house is about to be foreclosed on) back into the ring. 

Tommy is a puncher, an angry dynamo who pummels his opponents quickly.  Brendan’s fighting style is much more intellectual – he absorbs massive beatings as he tries to tire his rival down and figure out a way to make a technical takedown. 

The always fine Jennifer Morrison also does top work as Brendan’s supportive (but not clichéd “supportive”) wife. 

As Paddy, their newly sober father and former coach, trying desperately to make reparations to his non-responsive sons, Nick Nolte gives his best performance in many years.  The character is in turns contrite, tortured and furious – and Nolte pulls it all off with the modulated skill of a crafty old pro. 

In fact, despite the fact that it is constantly suggested (even by him) that Nolte was a horrible father when they were young, the way his sons completely block out his desperate attempts to atone almost seems cruel.  This is particularly notable when he pours his heart out to Tommy and gets bile spit back at him, also when Paddy drives over to see Brendan and has the door shut in his face.  (Note to the screenwriter: Though they are in the same state, it is a 6-7 hour drive to get from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia.  People don’t just take that trip on a whim without even calling.) 

It all leads up to a huge championship showdown in Atlantic City, which is flashy and entertaining as the brothers negotiate the opponents – including a Russian behemoth played by MMA star Kurt Angle – in the nearly inevitable final showdown between the feuding brothers.   

However, long before this climax, the audience realizes that it doesn’t really matter who wins.  In an odd way, by pummeling each other in front of millions of people, perhaps these estranged brothers (and their father) can finally start the healing. 

Also, to promote the opening, a program called “We Are All Warriors” has been started.  According to the promotion, “This program was designed to highlight today's hero and it brings together warriors of all walks of life - from civil activists fighting for our rights to firefighters and police officers who fight for our lives, to mothers and fathers fighting for their families.  In reality, whether it's for human rights, faith, honor or respect we are ALL fighting battles every day.  The best part is, by nominating a warrior or self-nominating themselves, one featured warrior has the chance to win a hometown screening of the film, Warrior, from AMC Theatres.”  Go to www.weareallwarriors.com and nominate the heroes and warriors in your own life. 

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 26, 2011.

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Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 26, 2011.