Thursday, March 8, 2012

Warrior. B+


I think the best thing about Warrior is that, for once, its a sports movie that isn't based on a true story. Suddenly there are enormous possibilities, and the director, Gavin O'Connor (made Miracle) doesn't disappoint. O'Connor takes a sport, MMA, that hasn't really been covered in the movies and then creates a plot so ridiculous its irresistible: two brothers, one a rugged ex-marine the other a straight laced physics teacher, both turn to their old ways in the ring. When the obligatory "big fight" comes at the end, its the two brothers (who are at odds, by the way) who face each other. This is a hugely entertaining sports drama that pretty much works all the way around. The drama is predictable yet really nicely done (all the performances are excellent), making the climax enormously effective. The movie is full of confrontational scenes between sets of characters that easily could have been trite and stale. But because of the cast and the intelligence of the script, there's really nothing to criticize about them. The other facet of the film that really makes it so good is its excellent advertisement of mixed martial arts. MMA, sort of a mix between wrestling and boxing, is not a sport that is universally known. It combines the brawn of the fake wrestling shows with real skill and finesse. There's plenty of vigor, punches, kicks, and nosebleeds. But what elevates the sport is the craft involved, the intricate moves that allows a smaller, weaker man to still defeat a massive, bulking opponent. Warrior depicts all of this, really selling MMA as an exciting battle built as much around tactics as it is strength. And the fact that there aren't really any rules makes it all the more thrilling, and in some senses terrifying. I'm not sure Warrior needs to be as dark as it is simply because the movie is a tad silly. But it's so earnest in its endeavors that it's hard not to jump on its wagon and believe every second of it. I imagine this was a tough movie to make, but O'Connor pulls it off. As far as comparisons go, don't think of the serious sports dramas like Raging Bull or Million Dollar Baby. But for all the family oriented fact based films like Rudy, The Rookie, Glory, The Express and so on, I think Warrior trumps them all.

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