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Monday, November 14, 2011

Rath's Reviews: Warrior

I will start off by being honest. I am not a huge fan of sports movies. In my opinion, they are always either classics or terrible and I forget about them more easily than any other movie genre I can think of. I would have to say that my favorite sports movies, in order, are Space Jam, Remember the Titans, and Never Back Down. All three movies are memorable and I love each one in a different way. Space Jam is silly and reminds me of a time when sports had a lot more to do with fun than making money. Remember the Titans was just a great movie overall, with strong characters and a fantastic story. And Never Back Down is a bit of a wild card, but it is such a cool movie that is fun almost every time I watch it.

After seeing Warrior, I think I can confidently add one more movie to the list above. It is not a cool sports movie, or even a fun one, but I'll be damned if it's not an emotional one. The story is set up throughout the near-perfectly paced film and it basically goes like this: two brothers who are not very fond of each other are both into MMA fighting. They have completely different lives and backstories other than the fact that their father was a drunk and ruined the family. There is clearly a lot of drama between the entire family, especially since the mother has passed away. To make a long story short, both brothers need money, and somewhat unknown to each other, they end up in the same 16-man, bracket-style, MMA tournament fighting for $5 million. As Im sure you can guess, they end up fighting each other in the championship. Supposedly the movie is based on a true story, but I really wonder how much of it is true. I believe that two brothers maybe fought each other (I dont follow MMA), but I dont really believe all of the drama that unfolds behind the scenes. But that doesn't matter.

Tom Hardy as Tommy on the left and Joel Edgerton as Brendan on the right.
Random UFC ref in the center.
I do believe that Tom Hardy, who plays the younger brother, Tommy, is going to be a star very soon. You might recognize him from Inception, and he is, in my opinion, the best actor in this film. You can catch him next summer as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Joel Edgerton plays the other brother, Brendan, and also does well as the father-husband-school teacher who decides to get back into fighting. Nick Nolte is in the movie as the boys' father, and to be honest, I think his character is the only negative of the movie. He is obviously an essential part of the movie since he is Tommy's trainer and the boys are kind-of sort-of working towards forgiving him for his alcoholic past. But I think the movie sometimes gets confused as to whether it is a brother drama or a father-son drama, and it is clearly a brother drama all the way. I guess what Im saying is that Nick Nolte got too much screen time and there should have been more time exploring the brothers' backgrounds.

Introducing: Tom Hardy's shoulders. I mean seriously, those would make
Dwight Howard blush. Can't wait to see him as the new Batman villain.
Daddy issues aside, the movie does a phenomenal job at everything else. Every fight is a memorable, bone-crunching, emotional event. The conversations between the brothers had me polarized and the reveal of Tommy's background in the Iraq war were astonishing, and they are all laid out perfectly. In the final event, most of the story is given to us by ESPN commentators and CNN updates, which I would usually hate, but here it works well. Even the must-have training montage that every single sports film has is done creatively and powerfully here. It does not overstay its welcome, but it also doesnt make it feel like they all the sudden got ready for the fight of their life.

"Here...smell my hand! SMELL IT!"
The thing Warrior succeeds at most though is that final fight. The movie makes each brother likable and unlikable, and you are rooting for each one for different reasons. It's a feeling that I have never really felt before in a movie: rooting for both of the good guys and both of the bad guys at the same time. It's hard not to become emotional during the final fight (although that wasnt the only time I was emotional) mainly because you dont know how to feel. What is Tommy going to do if he doesnt win? What is Brendan going to do if he doesnt win? And ultimately, Who is going to win? These questions and more are all racing through your head as you watch this beautifully choreographed fight play out with pitch perfect music and commentary. It is certainly not a scene that I will forget the next day.

I was surprised by Warrior. I had heard it was good, but honestly, good doesnt cut it for me in sports movies. I want a classic film or its not really worth my time. Warrior is maybe not a classic, but it gets so close and pacts such an unusual emotional punch that it might as well be.

If you are looking for a engrossing story, a great sports movie, and a somewhat unique movie experience, I would take a swing at Warrior.


Pros:

  • Phenomenal story that is presented logically and over the course of the entire movie
  • Top notch acting by all; makes it all the more emotional
  • The fight scenes are expertly done. They feel dangerous, real, and intense
  • Follows some sports movie cliches, but either does them so well or so little that it doesnt matter
  • That final fight is truly an experience. The movie comes down to that one moment, and in that one moment it is perfect
Cons:

  • The dad story line is necessary, but it distracts from the true drama of the movie. It should have had a less prominent role, or been explained via less screen time
  • Still has some sports movie cliches in there
  • The ending is abrupt. It's fine as is, but I would have liked a little more closure

Rath's Review Score: 8.5/10

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