Overall Rating: You Gotta See This Movie!
I was able to get a sneak peak at the new MMA movie, “Warrior,” opening on September 9th. Warrior has everything MMA fans are used to: a high school teacher turned MMA star, a war veteran-turned-fighter, a stoic Russian MMA machine, a mohawked brawler, a seedy manager, a famed trainer and an underdog story, what more can you ask for?
“Warrior” (Lionsgate) might appear to be a close relation of mindlessly bellicose fodder for example “Conan the Barbarian,” the exploitative retread unleashed by Lionsgate the 2009 summer. In truth, “Warrior” is a poignant, well-acted sports drama about fraternal discord and ties between fathers and sons.
In reality, “Warrior” features moments of bone-crunching violence poor mixed martial arts competition, so it’s not for individuals who can’t watch boxing movies. Nevertheless, the pugilism isn’t especially graphic and well before the final bell rings, the violence continues to be eclipsed by genuine pathos. The sport’s brutality can be used to illustrate values and themes often explored in mythology, classical tragedy and most a few Bible stories.
Coming back home to hardscrabble Pittsburgh after a long absence that included an excursion in Iraq, U.S. Marine Tommy Conlon (Bad guy) finds that his father, Paddy (Nick Nolte), has stopped drinking because of a 12-step program and a rediscovery of his Catholic faith.
Fourteen years earlier, fearing for his or her welfare, Tommy fled with his now-deceased mother. Coached through the volatile Paddy, once a Marine himself, Tommy have been a champion wrestler. Now angry, anguished and cynical, he learns the old neighborhood gym has turned into a hotbed of MMA, an increasingly popular sport (also called ultimate fighting) that combines aspects of boxing, Brazilian martial arts and wrestling. Seeing a power outlet for his rage, Tommy takes up and, reluctantly, asks Paddy to become his trainer.
Meanwhile, his older brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton), also estranged from Paddy, is really a high school physics teacher near Philadelphia. Married with two young daughters, he faces foreclosure on his home and, unbeknownst to wife Tess (Jennifer Morrison), competes in unsanctioned MMA matches to earn money. Brendan had a middling career about the professional circuit and, after trouble at the office, returns to fighting full-time.
As fate would have it, both siblings enter a high-profile event in Atlantic City featuring the earth’s top MMA fighters. Whoever remains standing at the end of the single-elimination tournament will win $5 million. Since Tommy uses his mother’s maiden name, nobody knows he and Brendan are brothers. He also harbors a secret stemming from his service in Iraq.
Unlikely while it’s – and as movie-inevitable as the plotting is – the ultimate fraternal fracas “Warrior” builds toward is an affecting way of expiation and reconciliation. While Paddy seeks forgiveness an additional chance with his sons, they crave affirmation.
Director and co-screenwriter Gavin O’Connor plumbed similar material in 2 earlier films. His gritty “Pride and Glory” concerned two brothers who followed their father in to the NYPD; and 2004′s “Miracle” was an inspirational underdog sports drama concerning the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. Here he conveys deep-seated feelings with no excess of dialogue, exposition or overly detailed back story. Adopting an extra, deliberate style, he forgoes explicating or glamorizing MMA in support of depicting broken relationships. His characters aren’t especially articulate, saying more using their bodies and facial expressions compared to their words, and the movie couldn’t succeed without strong performances from Hardy, Edgerton and Nolte.
You can’t really completely isolate the emotional core of “Warrior” in the brutality of MMA (the referee begins each match by exhorting the 2 combatants, “Let’s go to war!”). Since it tacitly approves of violence as a way of dealing with conflict, “Warrior” is just suitable for selected viewers.
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