The youngest son of an alcoholic former boxer returns home, where he's trained by his father for competition in a mixed martial arts tournament - a path that puts the fighter on a collision course with his estranged, older brother.
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Two brothers face the fight of a lifetime - and the wreckage of their broken family - within the brutal, high-stakes world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting in Lionsgate's action/drama, WARRIOR. A former Marine, haunted by a tragic past, Tommy Riordan returns to his hometown of Pittsburgh and enlists his father, a recovered alcoholic and his former coach, to train him for an MMA tournament awarding the biggest purse in the history of the sport. As Tommy blazes a violent path towards the title prize, his brother, Brendan, a former MMA fighter unable to make ends meet as a public school teacher, returns to the amateur ring to provide for his family. Even though years have passed, recriminations and past betrayals keep Brendan bitterly estranged from both Tommy and his father. But when Brendan's unlikely rise as an underdog sets him on a collision course with Tommy, the two brothers must finally confront the forces that tore them apart, all the while waging the most intense, ... Written by
A fine sports/fight movie with great performances that deserves a wide audience
I was lucky enough to catch Warrior at Empire's Big Screen at the O2 in London last week as one of their secret screenings and I have to say it was a very pleasant surprise. It seems it wasn't just me either, eves-dropping on rest of the audience as we left revealed there was an all round endorsement by the crowd. Funnily many of the conversations would begin 'I wouldn't usually go and see a film like that but ' which I can certainly second. I will also avoid spoilers here as I went into this completely unaware and certainly benefited from it.
The film follows two fighters and their families as they enter the big bucks mixed martial arts (MMA) competition, Sparta. It has the usual balance of down on his luck good guy doing it for the family (Joel Edgerton) and a seemingly brutal fighter who is looking for a payday (the suddenly ubiquitous Tom Hardy). Throw in Nick Nolte as a sad, reformed drunk of a father and we have the basic elements of another run of the mill sporting movie. Or at least that's how it starts. It doesn't particularly throw any curve balls to be honest but it does unfold interestingly and we are not given the whole story on a plate which was refreshing. It examines family relationships and regret and faces the terrible truths when some wounds just cannot be healed by forgiveness once it is too late.
It's not all family drama though and unsurprisingly it does have a hellova lot of fighting in so even though I think it is enjoyable for most if you can't stomach the violence then don't bother with it. However the fighting is well balanced within the narrative, excellently shot and excitingly edited so we do not get the cliché slow-mo or the epic hour long battle even for the big finale. Some of the fights are brutally quick and even those that go the distance are edited down very well indeed while maintaining that punishing feeling - they certainly had the audience ooomph'ing and wincing along with every slam and punch. There will be blood along with some horrible curdling crunches too.
Aside form the action Rocky (1976) and The Wrestler (2008) seemed to be more about the individual and their demons and while there are elements of that here it really focuses on the (dysfunctional) family drama. Of course it is going to get the obvious comparisons to The Fighter (2010) but I don't think it's a bad thing and that should really be taken as a compliment. I would not be surprised to see it picking up a few awards along the way too. Even if one was to compare the two I think Warrior stands up very well and having the film follow two fighters marks it apart. Like the fighter though the two leads are outstanding and worthy of all the attention they will receive for them. Performances are impressive across the board in fact and it's wonderful to see Nick Nolte back in the frame with a delightful role that he seems to slip perfectly into. (A sorry ex-drunk with a history of violence - apologies Nick!) As well as their acting performances the two main characters are to be complimented on their believable appearance as fighters with some impressive physique on display. Both of our fighters here are easily as believable as the muscled yet high pitched and whiny Wahlberg and certainly must have done a fair bit of training for the role too. Although that wouldn't really be a surprise for anyone that has seen Hardy in Bronson (2008) most will know him from his turn in Inception (2010) which is something completely different. Joel Edgerton too looks different from the roles I remember him in Kinky Boots (2005) and Animal Kingdom (2010) - as well as his Uncle Owen turn mean this is another impressive transformation.
As much as I love this film there are a few gripes as there always has to be (sorry I've yet to find a 10/10 film!). Props to director Gavin O'Connor who also wrote the story and starred but the direction could have been a bit tighter and its not a movie where every scene is trimmed with a few wasted shots or lazy and obvious camera work. Although performances were all good some of the characters seemed to lack depth and I felt the wife (Jennifer Morrison) was a little underused as I thought Nick's role also seemed to be forgotten about in the final third. These are very minor quibbles but unfortunately the main one is that it's a product of its self - it's difficult for any film like this to avoid the cliché or cheesy ending. A film focusing on two main fighters in the same competition was always limited on outcomes and although Warrior does it's best I'm afraid the ending could have been handled a bit better.
Very enjoyable movie that I hope gets the audience it deserves. Give it a try even if it's not your usual cuppa tea.
8 out of 10
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