Quick Review: Warrior

Posted in Uncategorized by - September 09, 2011

The winning formula of ‘The Fighter’ was taking the underdog sports film and freshening the cliches with some references to a true story and a supporting cast that to a person was punching down to the material. Crazy success followed. People respond to a training montage. They love a underestimated washout who takes inhuman amounts of punishment before finally scoring the win. It is difficult to fail with this strategy, but it’s also difficult to make a worthwhile movie with this strategy. For every ‘Rocky’ there’s an infinite number of ‘Rocky Balboas’.

‘Warrior’ uses some similar tactics, with some interesting additions. Instead of a final showdown between the underdog and his tormentor, we get a showdown between two underdogs. Instead of boxing or karate we have mixed martial arts. Instead of a bully to face down, our villains are banks, and bureaucrats and lingering memories of trauma.

The material is simple – two brothers, have a tortured relationship with their abusive, alcoholic father. One of them manages to get some distance beyond his upbringing and has a successful marriage and a career, and the other is brooding and resentful and alone. They are both fighters, whose father was good only as a coach. Through separate hard times, they both return to fighting and enter a tournament where they end up facing each other.

The cast is mostly better than the material, most especially Nick Nolte. As the newly clean patriarch looking for redemption, he’s slumming in a role that would be easy to grunt through. Instead, we se occasional glimpses of the kind of actor Nolte once was. The only clunker is Tommy, the tortured younger brother whose spite and self-pity are bottomless. In the hands of a better actor, this could be a resonant and sympathetic character. As it is, we get a lukewarm Brando impression and no sense that he’s better than his situation. I also felt bad for Brendon’s wife, reduced as she was to the action movie trope of ‘wife who whines constantly about her husband doing the one thing he’s good at’.

‘Warrior’ is competent, but devoid of inspiration. I’m willing to ignore the fact that both brothers become the best in the world after a few weeks back in the gym. I’m willing to ignore that there’s a hastily assembled tournament in nearby Atlantic City that has a $5m purse and will crown someone the world champ. I’m even willing to ignore the fact that Joel Edgerton (Brendon) is basically Conan O’Brien. Smaller and buffer, yes, but I defy you to look at his face and not hum ‘In the Year 2000’.

There’s a great deal of punching, sweating and bleeding. I’m not enough of a fan of MMA to vouch for the accuracy of the fight scenes, but they are visceral. A lot of the matches are anti-climactic – the fighter who comes off the blocks fastest wins in seconds – but I gather that is relatively common in the UFC.

It’s going to be around for a while. The competition is weak, MMA is popular and both of the leads are popular with the ladies. They will only become more popular shirtless, brooding and emotionally unstable. ‘Warrior’ offers nothing new, but it executes its limited ambitions in yeoman fashion.

This post was written by MisterDee

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