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Warrior by Gavin O’Connor

Warrior (2011 film)

Warrior by Gavin O’Connor

I have a confession to make: I love martial arts. I love martial arts movies. There’s nothing more primal than watching two people beating the shit out of each other. Warrior is a movie that understands this but earns that fun legitimately through the three lead performances. It works on these two levels.

Joel Edgerton brings genuine goodness to the film. His character Brendan Conlon is formerly-failed MMA fighter turned school teacher, the bank is taking his house and now he is fighting in the cage to keep his family together. And through being motivated by family, he becomes a better fighter. You root for him. You want him to win.

I’ve never seen Nick Nolte so raw and completely naked playing this broken old man trying to repair his regrets. The Nick Nolte-isms do not shortcut him. He’s earned that Oscar nomination, though I don’t think he’ll win this year.

Here’s why I think Tom Hardy is a great actor: he acts with his entire body. No, I’m not talking about his deltoids (though “Tom Hardy’s deltoids” completely earn another independent credit in this movie). It’s an fine-tuned, equally internal and external performance. Notice the way he grunts, the weight in his walk, how he speaks under his breath and the way he glares his eyes like he’s going to lose it any second. He’s not even human in this movie. He is a mythic beast. Let’s just say, the bat will be broken.

The fights themselves are exciting to watch because of four aesthetic reasons, 1) The drama works. We care. 2) The actors are doing it. The camera doesn’t do anything to hide a stuntman. 3) The fights happen in film time, not real time. They’re editing on dramatic beats. They’re not sticking to how real MMA fights play out, which most of the time is people hugging each other on the ground. (If you’ve seen Never Back Down, you know what I’m talking about.) They’re presented in a realistic fashion with the boring parts omitted. 4) You feel the pain of these fights. On a side note, I also enjoyed the dual training montage sequence. They’re acknowledging the origin of the DNA strain (uh.. Rocky, anybody?) and trying to evolve it into something of their own. I appreciated that.

This was probably the most fun I’ve had watching a movie this year. I have a soft spot for it.

That said, I’m a little jealous that Joel Edgerton pulled off a flying armbar. That took me months!

6 responses to “Warrior by Gavin O’Connor

  1. jumpingpolarbear ⋅

    Thanks for the review. Can’t wait to check it out as I am a huge MMA fan.

  2. Imthiyaz ⋅

    I just watched it and loved the story so much that I went and ordered it online (found it for 17.99 blu-ray, steal!) I really think they handled the ending well with the two brothers, but I was so badly wanting to see Nolte’s character embrace his two sons, for all intents and purposes we know that eventually Hardy’s character Tommy forgives him at the drunk scene and while Brendan said he forgave him along time ago those just felt like words, I think it really could have easily been solved by the sons (together) embracing this family, which I felt what this story was all about forgiveness and bringing this broken family together. Also Tommy’s goal of winning the money to help the family of his fallen soldier buddy was left without any real conclusion, I was wondering whether Brendan split the money with him after he discovered his intentions. I think what worked so well is that they did the reveal through the newscast so you could safely assume that’s exactly what he did, because Brendan’s a good guy like that. I don’t mean to nitpick, I mean I haven’t been engrossed in a film so much as I have with this one and I really loved it, possibly even more than Rocky, I just think the stories were done really well and the film did an amazing job of revealing exposition without going into a flashback or sappy dialogue.

  3. Pingback: Review: Warrior « M-E D I A

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