Sunday, September 4, 2011

Warrior - Movie Review

I caught a sneak preview of Warrior over the weekend, so I finally have a review up of a movie before it actually comes out!

The movie is about a kid trying out for the Golden State Warriors. Sorry, got my 'Warrior' mixed up. This has nothing to do with those Warriors.

Warrior is really about the story of two brothers. The younger brother, played by Tom Hardy (Bane in the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises), is a former Marine, who returns from home and begins to train in MMA. His main motivation appears to be to raise money for the family of a friend of his, who died in the war.

The older brother, played by Joel Edgerton ('Uncle Owen' from the Star Wars prequels...ha!), is a high school physics teacher and former MMA fighter. He and his family are underwater with their mortgage and Edgerton starts to fight again in order to raise money to keep their house.

Hardy, moves back in with his father, played by Nick Nolte, a recovering alcoholic and former boxer, who trains Hardy for the fights. It's clear that both sons don't respect or like their father and that his alcoholism tore the family apart some time ago.

Both brothers enter the same MMA tournament, which has a top prize of $5 million. Do you see where this is going? It is pretty cliched at times, to the point where my friend joked at one point though the film, 'I somehow think this is all coming to an inevitable conclusion.' It doesn't help that the trailer gives the conclusion away either. It'll draw comparisons to movies like Rocky and The Fighter, but I would think any movie featuring a fighter trying to take care of his family is going to draw some kind of comparison to those.

The refreshing thing is this is finally a MMA-based movie that is actually good, as opposed to trash like Never Back Down and Fighting.

Warrior is not based on a true story, despite what you may have heard. I don't actually think that's ever stated during the movie or the trailer. I just think that's the perception of the film, and probably based on the fact that a lot of 'grittier' fighting movies, like The Fighter, are based off real events. There are, however, elements of real fighters though. For example, Kurt Angle's character, Koba, appears to be somewhat based on Fedor. It was kind of funny seeing Kurt Angle playing a Russian fighter, when he was a former US Olympic Gold Medal winner. He has no dialog though, so this was clearly a role he was brought in for just to have his physical presence.

You get your usual training montages, but fortunately they weren't overdone. They don't overload you with MMA terminology. If you've ever watched even just a single MMA fight, you won't have any trouble following the fight scenes in Warrior.

It kind of felt like 'Hollywood-MMA', similar to 'Hollywood-Boxing'. My friend pointed out that particular move done at one point would have been illegal, but that's Hollywood doing MMA for you. It's like the guy that did the fight scenes saw that one clip of "Rampage" Jackson slamming Arona and said, "Oh yeah, that must happen several times a fight. We need to put that in our movie!"

I thought the performances were all great. I really felt for Nick Nolte's character. It's a very emotional performance as a recovering alcoholic, who just wants to be forgiven by his sons and have relationships with them.

Hardy and Edgerton were both great, but clearly Edgerton's character is the protagonist. At least he was the character I found myself rooting for. Both guys got in great shape for the movie and I'm sure the ladies will like looking at them.

You can't help but feel a little bit of a tear come in at the final moments. This is a movie you might see a lot of guys crying in. I don't mean to say I cried something in my eyes. Stop looking at me!

Warrior was written and directed by Gavin O'Connor, who doesn't have a lot of work to his name that you'd know of, outside of Miracle. This is clearly his best work so far.

Warrior takes a bit to get going, but there's enough humor and real human moments here to keep you going through it all until the fighting starts. The movie has heart! This is one of the better fighter-based movies I've seen. I wouldn't quite put it up there with Rocky or The Fighter, but just behind them. Overall, I still think this is a really good movie. I think this is a strong matinee and recommend seeing it this weekend.

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