By Bret Dorman
Yes, it’s true. No, not the story of Warrior, but that it very closely resembles last year’s The Fighter. But then again, aren’t all fighting movies kind of the same when you really think about it?
The Story: Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton) are brothers from the same mother. And father (Nick Nolte), who is a recovering alcoholic. Both brothers decide, independently, to fight in a tournament to win a bunch of money because everyone likes money. Also, their sport is MMA, but this is not the UFC.
A movie like this, a ‘boxing’/’sport’ movie about two underdogs is going to have a lot of cliches and improbabilities. That’s just how it is. What really matters isn’t the truthiness of the movie, but how well it pulls you in. And how well it pulls you in really relies on one main thing: The Acting.
(Side note: Why does my computer not recognize ‘truthiness’ as a real word? I’m pretty sure it is now thanks to Stephen Colbert.)
Jennifer Morrison and Frank Grillo play supporting roles (wife/trainer respectively) to Joel Edgerton and both do well to give him a reason to fight and make it semi-believable that he could fight. Edgerton himself has this nice charm that makes him super likable outside of the octagon. And of course his family gives him the ‘determination’ he needs to get it done in the ring. Meanwhile, Kevin Dunn plays his boss (the principle of the school he teaches at) and provides some laughs here and there, although in my opinion they used him too much in the first fight.
On the other side of this sibling rivalry we have Tom Hardy, who you root for out of pure mesmerization of his dark and brooding screen presence. He refuses to forgive their dad, Nick Nolte, who grumbles and growls his lines while giving his sons doughy eyes and pleading for forgiveness. This movie doesn’t reveal they are brothers until maybe halfway through the film? And yet the trailer focuses primarily on that and basically tries to condense the first 2 hours of this movie to 2 minutes and focus on the most important aspect: The Final Fight!
This movie features MMA. For those still unfamiliar with MMA, it’s Mixed Martial Arts. Any Martial Art is allowed, although (Kick)Boxing and (Brazilian) Jiu-Jistsu are the most commonly applied. You can either knock out your opponent or submit them via a submission move. While watching real MMA, I can never sit sitll, it always unnerves me. I squirm in my seat as at any moment the tables can turn. Having a friend who actually does MMA, he has taught me a thing or two in terms of what to watch for. So for most people what looks like two guys on the ground doing nothing is actually a strategic ground game where at any moment someone can get an Arm Bar or Triangle Hold and make their opponent tap out.
While watching Warrior, I was definitely impressed with the actors and the general visceral approach to the sport. I’m not implying Boxing is ‘easy to fake’ but MMA is really hard to fake, especially some of those hits and take downs. I do wish the camera could pull out a little more and show us the action, but overall these actors where incredible to watch and never seemed like they couldn’t do what they were doing.
Having said that, the camera outside the octagon was still a little too ‘dramatically handheld’ for me, which seems to be a ‘go to’ technique if you want to make things feel more ‘real’ and ‘intense’.
In Conclusion, Warrior is a fine script with powerful fighting scenes. But it’s the acting that really counts and here they did their best with your typical underdog story. But hey, who doesn’t like rooting for an underdog… or two.
Final Grade: B