- Reviews Written:
Posted on 12/26/12 11:42 AM
Either viewers love sports movies, or they hate them. Still, they are a staple in American cinema. Dozens of movies covering sports like football, baseball, basketball, tennis, and golf have been made. Criticism for these movies is understandable. Characters are often one-dimensional and flat. Conflicts are familiar and follow the same underdog story. But in 2011, a sports movie was released that dared to break out of this mold. Though underrated and overlooked, Warrior is the perfect sports movie.
Unlike other sports movies, where the characters are either perfect or terrible, the audience can relate to all the characters in this movie. In any movie, we need characters and character development that seem real. Often times, sports movies jettison real character development for banal clichés. Warrior has well-thought-out, well-written characters. The movie revolves around two brothers, Brendon and Tommy, who are both trying to win the same Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) event. The prize is five million dollars, and both brothers have a good reason for winning. Gone is the sports movie cliché that we need a good guy and a bad guy. The audience is left with two heroes to root for because the movie has developed both of the men so well. But they aren't the only relatable characters. Some could relate to the brothers' alcoholic father, or Brendon's protective wife. These real characters put this movie head and shoulders above its peers.
Warrior is the first mainstream motion picture look into MMA. It seems that every other sport has its movie, but MMA is relatively new to the mainstream. Warrior helps bring awareness of even the minute details of this growing sport. The admirable dedication and determination of MMA fighters is highlighted. This movie shows the devotion and pain that goes into being the best, as well as realistically showing the dangers of the sport. Anyone who sees it and decides to try MMA has been warned in advance. Yet, the movie illustrates that MMA is not a mindless sport. Brendon's training, for example, involves listening to Beethoven and translating the rhythm of the music into his technique.
The sports action complements the drama, not the other way around. The movie doesn't rely on big action set-pieces to keep the audience interested, instead using action only when necessary to the story. The movie leans on the drama of the story, with only one or two small action scenes included in the first two-thirds. When the brothers' parents split, Brendon stayed with their father, and Tommy left with their mother. At the time, Tommy expected they both would leave with their mom to escape their father, whose life was controlled by alcohol. Instead, Brendon stayed back so he could have his dad all to himself without Tommy, the favorite son. When Brendon and Tommy meet again for the first time in years, they are still very much at odds with each other. Tommy feels betrayed and doesn't accept apologies, while Brendon doesn't think forgiveness is unreasonable. Instead of yelling and coming to blows, they have a simple but important conversation. The movie develops the characters in the beginning and unleashes the action in the last forty minutes. By this time, the conflict of the quieter moments is played out in a final tournament. The emotions of both brothers build and build throughout their preliminary fights, careening to a sensational climax in the championship match. I love how the emotion of each brother is translated into their respective fights. The action is shot incredibly. You can feel the speed, force, and power of every hit.
These are the best performances in a sports movie I have ever seen. Joel Edgerton is fantastic as Brendan. He can go from being a loving father to this monster in the cage. Tom Hardy is out-of-his mind good as Tommy. Tommy is angry, and Hardy is genuinely frightening as him. Plus he can play Tommy's inner child wonderfully. Both actors must also mask their original English accents. Nick Nolte also stars as the brothers father. The Oscar nomination speaks for itself. Also look for Jennifer Morrison as Brendan's wife, and Frank Grillo as Brendan's trainer, Frank Campana. Both are great performances.
Overall, I found myself hoping that both men would win SPARTA, but of course this can not happen. I loved this movie. Everything I like about films is in this one. Unbelievable. After a re-watch, I have to bump it up to my highest rating. Absolutely fantastic!
"You don't knock him out, you lose the fight, you understand me? You don't knock him out, you don't have a home." 10/10