Warrior (2011) Movie Review
Warrior, not to be confused with the cult classic Warriors, has been described as “Rocky for this generation” and the “most emotionally engaging” film of 2011. Quotes like these, not to mention a solid 83% / 92% split on the Tomatometer at RT.com, set expectations for the film pretty high. Unfortunately, these superlatives led to a failure to meet expectations. Warrior, though a decent film, did not indeed transcend the genre the way I might have anticipated it would.
A Sparta tournament for mixed martial arts (MMA) cage fighters is set to bring the world’s baddest fighters together for a few days, which will result in a $5 million, winner-takes-all purse. The stereotypes and genre familiarities are all on display here. Tommy (Inception’s Tom Hardy) is an ex-Marine who went AWOL despite being a hero of sorts. He is the brawler, one hitter quitter – a true unknown. Brendan (Joel Edgerton of Animal Kingdom) is the long shot underdog. He’s a teacher who was a one-time UFC fighter, with kids, worried wife (Jennifer Morrison) and an underwater mortgage for a home he is desperately trying to save. They play estranged brothers to a father neither likes.
The Acting is a Strong Point in Warrior
Hardy, Edgerton and Nick Nolte lead the strong cast and the acting is indeed solid, particularly Nolte whose tortured, reformed wife-beater and alcoholic father resonates. Director and writer Gavin O’Connor (Pride & Glory), a fan of MMA, does a pretty able job, all things considered. Still, while Brendan and Tommy interact in a few scenes of purported intensity, they just failed to light the fire anticipated. All of it felt a bit too paint by numbers in the end to really make the intended impact. I became more interested in the boys’ relationship with their father than their predetermined ring meeting.
The fight scenes were fine, but perhaps being set in a UFC style with a lot of floor grappling and wrestling – a style I don’t find particularly exciting or appealing – hurt things. It managed to feel fresh and recycled at the same time. What failed to hit home consistently were the moments of catharsis, which didn’t resonate the way the movie (or at least, I) hoped for. For UFC fans, Warrior will probably be worth fighting to see (though there isn’t a load of fighting thankfully, even during the tournament). For others, you’ll feel like you’ve seen this story enough times to take a pass and tap out, no twisting arm bar needed.