Movie Review: Warrior

So after spending Monday night slinking into sadness, watching my beloved Miami Dolphins get humiliated by the outwardly evil Patriots, I needed to do something else tonight instead of sitting on the same couch I was squirming in the night before.  So I thought I’d catch a Tuesday night movie.  Warrior seemed like the best choice, since I was frustrated, and it looked like there was a ton of punching in it.

I wasn’t really expecting that much, as the trailer made it out to be something of a generic studio fighting picture, almost a cheap, next-year knock-off  of 2010′s successful The Fighter.  I was wrong and I was right.  The plot is essentially what you’d expect, and many of the turning points are cliché and predictable, but where I was wrong was in the execution.  They did everything in their power to make this film riveting, and they succeeded.  I was not only drawn into this film, but I was excited looking forward to what was going to happen next.  I basically knew what was going to happen, not just from the trailer which basically gives the entire film away, eliminating all potential for a major dramatic and unexpected twist, but also it is just kind of predictable in general.  But even as I could assume what was next, I still liked how they played it out.

I think they accomplished this through the fact that they presented a handful of characters that I actually cared about.  More so, they have *two* protagonists, each of them equally likable, in opposition to each other, and each of them stand to gain plenty from coming out on top at the end.  So while you know that they end up squaring off each other at the end, at the very least, I didn’t know which way they would take the final element – the victor.  I thought they would take a hokey approach with that, maybe even avoid it altogether, but they handled it in a decent way I thought.

The comparisons to The Fighter are justified.  They are both about fighters (this time mixed martial arts dudes) who come from a broken and dysfunctional family, and they are fighting for not their personal glory, but for their well-being.  Or to come to terms with themselves.  Or both.  I like The Fighter more on almost all fronts.  Better storytelling, better acting (though the acting wasn’t bad AT ALL in Warrior), and The Fighter just felt more like a stylistically memorable film.  Warrior falls victim to things like the two brothers meeting for the first time in years, which for no reason, occurs on a deserted beach in the middle of the night.

I did admittedly find Warrior to be more exciting than The Fighter, though.  The fights (the ones that last more than 10 seconds) were edge of your seat action at its best.  Even though I knew the characters were obviously going to win every fight, leading to the inevitable showdown, they poured a great deal of emotion into the fight sequences and they are incredibly engaging.  It’s kind of like how in Kill Bill you know the Bride will get through everything somehow because she obviously has to confront Bill at the end, but when she gets buried alive you are still riveted as to how she will escape, even though you know at a very surface level she must.  If Warrior was less entertaining, the fact that it is such a cookie cutter plot would have doomed it to the level of dog shit.

To touch on the acting, Tom Hardy is awesome as expected.  A very nuanced performance for the most part, which only shows him off as a great actor when you compare it to something super outlandish like his performance in Bronson.  Nick Nolte is really, really good as the formerly alcoholic father who both brothers hate.  He’s trying to get back into their lives, but isn’t overly forceful about it.  It’s a sad, heartfelt performance, that only strays slightly into corny territory.  Joel Edgerton is perfectly fine as the other brother, even if he feels like Mark Wahlberg “light”. Kurt Angle plays a character that’s an obvious nod to Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV, which was both cool and almost pointless because you know he’s going to lose.  I say almost pointless because I thought his fight was possibly the best and most uplifting of the film.  I guess he served his purpose as another building block for character development.

The fact of the matter is that Warrior could have been a completely forgettable film, and they managed to avoid it by injecting it with a surprising amount of emotion, a good dose of action, and engaging enough characters that it flew by and didn’t feel like it was 2 hours and 20 minutes.  The two old guys sitting in my row in the theater must have been UFC fans, they were clapping and leaning forward and commenting on the fights like they were watching a pay-per-view.  I rarely ever go to crowded movies on Saturday nights, but I’ll admit that this seems like a great film to see in a large rowdy theater with people cheering.  Though, I’d immediately regret that when they are talking over the films many, quiet emotional scenes.  Scenes that helped make Warrior a good, balanced film.

Maybe I was just in the right mindset to see Warrior when I did, and in a different mood I could have hated it.  In fact, I’d be more than willing to see it again on Blu-ray at some point, but I get the feeling like it may not be as good the second time around.  It touched me the right way tonight, but it’s probably not enough of a *real* film to warrant repeat viewings.  For example, I’ve seen The Fighter 3 or 4 times now, and I still like it, and treat it like it’s more than just some random fighting picture that came out of nowhere like this.  But I liked Warrior, liked it quite a bit.  If you liked the Fighter, or are a fan of the UFC, I’d suggest this big time.  To everyone else, if it’s the kind of film that you think is up your alley, there’s a strong chance it actually is.  Maybe even better than you’d hope it to be.

Check it out, it’s good for the genre.  Also it’s a film about Irish people fighting professionally that doesn’t take place in Boston for a change.  Hooray!  And for the record, I pictured Tom Brady’s face on a lot of the people getting beat up, and it made me feel better.

8 out of 10

Here, enjoy almost every major plot point leading up to the end:

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One thought on “Movie Review: Warrior

  1. Great review. The cliches are there but Edgerton, Hardy, and Nolte rise this above being just than just Rocky with MMA. It’s a well-made and emotionally gripping story that brings out some real gut-wrenching moments as well as the great knock-outs. Check out mine when you can!

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