*1/2 (out of 5)
September 9, 2011
Joel Edgerton as BRENDAN CONLON
Tom Hardy as TOMMY CONLON
Nick Nolte as PADDY CONLON
Jennifer Morrison as TESS CONLON
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Every year as the nights start to get longer, we are treated to a bevy of award films inching their way towards Oscar in the winter. However, while some folks adore award season, a certain part of me dreads it. Sure, there are brilliant movies that come out at the end of the year, but there are also not-so-brilliant poser movies that attempt at greatness and fail miserably.
“Warrior” is one such film. It’s a hodge-podge of inspirational sports movie cliches mashed up with pseudo-intellectual bull pucky trying to rise above its stand as a blatant advertisement for mixed martial arts.
The story follows two brothers (Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy) who miraculously find themselves in the same MMA tournament. As they test their mettle among the opponents, they face their own battles with each other and their estranged father (Nick Nolte). Unfortunately, there’s no way to summarize this film or watch the trailer without having the first two hours of the film spoon fed to you. There are zero surprises as the story plays out, and the movie simply marks time through cliche dialogue and one-dimensional characters until we get to the final battle.
Before I continue, let me say that I have nothing against MMA fans or the fighters themselves (and not just for the fear of my own safety). It’s a legitimate sport, arguably the boxing for a new century. However, it is just another form of fighting. That’s okay, and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the visceral brutality of the event… but don’t tell me its poetry.
However, this movie goes overboard trying to do just that. Nick Nolte’s character begins the film listening to a recording of “Moby Dick.” That motif continues throughout the film, cramming this unsubtle symbolism of obsession into the audience’s face. There’s even the obligatory Oscar clip with Nolte stumbling around yelling at the world as if he were on the Pequod.
The force at which such forced and rather cliche intellectualism is rammed into the audience is as soft and gentle as the MMA battles of the film. Each character has his single-minded obsessions, whether it be his wife and kids, his lost relationship with his sons or his attempt to right the wrongs that happened during the war.
As if the “Moby Dick” elements of the movie weren’t enough, one of the fighters trains to the music of Beethoven rather than the hard core rock music normally associated with MMA sports. It’s meant to show calmness and serenity used to win matches. It’s meant to show the poetry and beauty of the sport. But instead of digging deep and offering a true knowledge of music, the film replays “Ode to Joy” (the most obvious and uninspired choice of Beethoven’s work outside of the Fifth Symphony) over and over and over again.
All of this would be forgivable were the characters in the film even the least bit likeable. But sadly, they’re all assholes, and I couldn’t root for any of them. Even the supporting characters were assholes, including the brothers’ fans, who employ as much subtlety as the characters in a Tyler Perry flick.
Finally, there’s the actual filmmaking aspect of this movie. We live in a time when herky-jerky camera movement is meant to be cool. It’s meant to show action and intensity. And it works sometimes. But it can be overused… just look at any of Paul Greengrass’s recent flicks, and you would agree.
It’s one thing to get some handheld movement to get the audience feeling they’re right in the middle of the action. However, when the camera can’t even hold still for a static shot of two people talking, it’s too much. I was literally nauseous by the end of the film, and it wasn’t for the bloody fighting violence (which is pretty intense and surprising for its PG-13 rating). I felt like I was watching “The Blair Witch Project” all over again.
None of the aspects of this film made the grade. I know it’s getting a lot of love from some people, but for me, “Warrior” was a trite, one-dimensional, pseudo-intellectual mess of a movie.