Warrior (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Warrior (2011)

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While I can appreciate the skill and technique that goes into the sport, I've just never been an MMA fan. But despite my disinterest in the sport, and also a big chunk of the film being a advertisement for Tapout brand fitness gear, I found myself really enjoying Warrior.

Warrior is about the estranged Conlon family who is brought back together by the magic of MMA. Uh, but not in that nice, Walt Disney way. Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton) are brothers, though they haven't spoken in at least a decade. As their lives deteriorate, they learn about an upcoming MMA tournament with a substantial cash reward. Brendan is a family man, a former fighter-turned-teacher who hops back in the ring to earn the money needed to save his family's home. Tommy, on the other hand, is a dispassionate man running from his past. Both men have turned their backs on their father, Paddy (Nick Nolte); a recovering alcoholic desperate to atone for his past. As you might expect, their respective paths to glory eventually lead them into conflict with each other.

Before I go showering praises on Warrior, let's get the bad stuff out of the way. There's a lot of product placement in this film. If you take a drink every time you see the Tapout logo (two drink for every shot of the Tapout founders), you'll be blind-drunk before the second act. In someways, it felt like a big commercial for MMA and/or Tapout gear, though, to the film's credit, all the garish advertisements did lend something to the authenticity of the film, at least from what limited knowledge I have of the MMA world. There are plenty of cameos and nods to fans of MMA that, while I suspected they might be such, went well over my head until I looked them up on IMDB. If you're a fan, you might be impressed.Fortunately, there is a story here beyond the fan-service and sponsors, and a pretty good one to boot. Warrior could have been a formulaic, black-and-white sort of film where everyone starts off being mad at each other and by the end they learn the true meaning of Christmas. No, everyone starts of hating each other and by the end they've mostly just come to accept each other. It's not your “Hollywood ending,” but it feels a lot more real than your standard fare.

There aren't any heroes or villains in Warrior. The closest we get to villains are Tommy and Paddy. Paddy's sins are largely inferred, though the audience can probably guess some of them. Nolte plays him as a very sympathetic character; a man desperate to reconnect with his family, to make amends. And yet even he seems to understand why no one believes the sincerity of his attempts to apologize. Tommy is portrayed as a monster for the majority of the film. His fights are quick and brutal, with most of his fights ending in one or two punches. He uses his father to train, but denies him even the barest hint of compassion. He is portrayed as a cold, emotionless man who wants to win at no cost. And yet here and there we see glimpses of the humanity he tries to keep repressed, especially when his motivations for winning the purse are revealed.

Even “good” brother Brendan doesn't come off as squeaky-clean. Though his methods and motivations might seem entirely commendable for the majority of the film, the morality of his actions in the final moments of the film are definitely questionable. But that's why I really liked this movie. No one gets away clean, not even the “hero.”Oh, and maybe it goes without saying, but I found the fighting in the film to be pretty exciting. You'd think that's a no-brainer, but I don't actually find the real MMA to be all that exciting, so I was pleasantly surprised.

Past the punching, the holds, and the advertisements for workout gear, Warrior is, at it's heart, the story of a broken family, and three men trying to live with that. There's no saccharine-sweet reunion with swelling strings, no clear-cut heroes or villains, no forced happy ending. If you can look past the commercialism of MMA, there's a very real, very human story here that's worth seeing.

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Posted by Jacob

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