Reviewed By: Barry Laminack
August 4, 2011
Directed By: Gavin O’Connor
MMA Notabels: Nate Marquardt, Anthony Johnson, Josh Rosenthal, Sam Sheridan, Yves Edwards, Erik Apple, Tim Bickel
Release Date: September 9, 2011
Photos Courtesy IMDB
Up until now most MMA movies have seemed to miss the mark on capturing the authenticity of the sport. Also missing from the genre was the MMA version of Rocky. Thus far, WARRIOR comes the closest to filling both voids.
Set in Pittsburgh, PA, WARRIOR is the tale of two brother on a crash course with destiny. Tommy Riordan (played by Tom Hardy) is a marine who is trying to escape his past while fighting for his fallen comrades family. Tommy’s older brother Brendan Conlon (played by Joel Edgerton) is a family man and a school teacher who is forced to fight to save his house (and his family) from foreclosure.
The real fight for both isn’t in MMA, but how to deal with their recovering alcoholic father (played by Nick Nolte). Tommy needs his dad to get him ready for the Spartan tournament (billed as the super bowl of MMA) and the chance to win the $5 million winner take all prize. Meanwhile, Brendan struggles with his torn relationship with both his father and brother as he also tries to stay alive in the tournament and win the money.
If you can take off your MMA hat and not expect it to be 100% realistic and realize that it’s a Hollywood movie I think you’ll really enjoy it. The plot is a bit far fetched but not out of the realm of possibility I suppose. I mean chances are slim that two journeymen MMA fighters who are brothers would fair very well against the top 14 fighters in the world, only to meet each other in the winner take all finale; but then again if it was somebody like the Nogueira brothers I guess it could happen.
The movie is directed by Gavin O’Connor, the same guy who directed the movie Miracle, so going in you know it’s going to be dramatic if nothing else and it was. A couple of times you could hear a few claps in the crowd at the pre-screening. During one of the fight scenes the guy sitting two seats down from me actually moved to the edge of his seat while watching it (of course I’m not sure if it was due the the drama and the action or if his back was hurting him).
To me, the movie is more about the family than it is about the sport, and I’m OK with that. The struggle between the dad and son’s was very well done. You really get the sense that the brothers despise their father for his past transgressions against them and their mother, but Nolte does a great job of making you feel like he’s really sorry for what he has done.
My only real complaint about the movie was the way they portrayed the sport as a whole. You don’t see it in boxing movies, yet in MMA movies they still hint at how terrible the sport is. Case is point is when Brendan’s wife (played by Jennifer Morrison) tells him that she doesn’t want him to enter the tournament because she doesn’t want to see him end up dead.
REALLY? I mean, I know you have to build the drama, but I think there are better ways to do it.
I got the feeling that the director (O’Connor) wants us to root for Brendan, but I found myself rooting more for Tommy and I’m not sure why. Maybe it was his “me against the world” attitude, or the fact that he was very raw with his emotions.
The fight scenes are really good. Going in I was expecting a lot of over the top moves but for the most part the moves and strikes where portrayed pretty accurately save for the over the head power bomb, the fireman’s carry from a guillotine and the belly to belly from the Russian juggernaut Koba (played by Kurt Angle) that throws Brendan into the cage like a rag doll. Both the gym scenes and the fights scenes seemed familiar and authentic.
Some other random observations that I had:
- Having Koba (Angle) come out in the red and yellow communist Russia colors (Hammer and Sickle included) gave me the feeling they were trying a bit too hard to get that “Rocky” vibe
- Seeing the quote “Simply Believe – Mask” on the white board in the office was cool
- “If you stop moving you die” pegged my cheesy meter
- Two words: RING BALLS!
WARRIOR is a movie that MMA fans (both hardcore and casual) will enjoy. It will be interesting to see how it does at the box office given the fact that MMA fans can sometimes be fickle. Personally I think MMA fans expect a little more hoopla to go with their MMA. The UFC basically gives us a movie like experience with ever Pay-Per-View, so it will be interesting to see if the fans embrace an MMA themed movie devoid of a lot of flash.
That said, the movie was both entertaining and compelling. It has it’s funny moments, dramatic moments, intense moments and action packed moment. The acting was very good as was the fight scenes. Save for a few campy details and some unfortunate portrayals of the sport of MMA, I think the movie gives MMA fans a reason to go to the theatre.
Here is the trailer for the movie: