Monday 3 October 2011

Review: Warrior

Year: 2011
Director: Gavin O'Connor
Screenplay: Gavin O'Connor, Cliff Dorfman, Anthony Tambakis
Starring: Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, Joel Edgerton

Synopsis is here

I had the wonderful pleasure of watching Warrior in a cinema all to my self today. While I understand that the U.K is going through an Indian summer of sorts with all this sun despite going into October, my love of cinema always beats out my wish for a decent tan. It was a joy to have a screen to myself for a film like Warrior; the problem however, is that I had the cinema all to myself. Much like two years ago with Whip it, I found myself watching a sports film that does almost everything right and yet, empty seats...Their loss I guess.

It's not just here in the U.K either though, as Warrior's takings in the U.S were very weak also with takings that would make a premiership footballer wet himself with laughter. I've not looked into any of the reasons offered to why Warrior failed but it's pretty unfortunate for a film which has all the traits of a modern update of Rocky. Much like Stallone's crowdpleaser, Warrior comes out as America is in a state of discombobulation. However while Rocky came out during the back end of Watergate and the Vietnam War and won over audiences who had been gorging on a diet of brilliant (yet ambiguous) American new wave. The fact that Warrior has struggled to set the box office alight against a backdrop of economic stress and middle eastern wars while millions was spent on horrid nostalgia fuelled multi-metal nightmares with dubious philosophies shows that not only William Goldman is still right and "nobody knows anything", but in terms of film viewing we have a vastly different audience when it comes to going to the cinema.

I really hope Warrior finds a fanbase on DVD as despite it's flaws, the film is an highly entertaining Drama in a similar vibe to The Fighter and The Wrestler. It has a more intriguing family dynamic, but is unfortunately held back by the typical cliche minefield that the sports film can bring. The film is very obvious in it's direction with it's clear as a bell indicators (family photos and the like) and we can guess what's going to happen a mile off. It doesn't help that the film makes sure that our "split loyalties" fall heavily over one of the fighters. Ambiguity is not an option. We can also add to the list that for a film that is 140 minutes long, the central conflict feels slightly abstract. I'm a bit surprised more wasn't made from it.

None of this however, detracts from the fact that Warrior has three solid performances that make sure that make the drama work. Tom Hardy's dark and brooding performance show that it's not only the frame that make him a prime choice for Bane. Joel Edgerton (last seen in the brilliant Animal Kingdom) is on winning form here as he has what I would consider a harder part to play. Nick Nolte is the glue that holds everything together and gives an Award baiting performance. Usually such displays can annoy but Nolte hits the nail on so many scenes that it's more than worthwhile.

Warrior is very much a film of it's time, with it's fighters not only dealing with their relationship problems (this is a family of men ripped apart by aggression), but also the socio-political issues we face at this very moment. Hardy's Tommy is a post 9/11 fighter whose past is troubled with what was seen in the wars of the middle east, while Edgertons Brenden paints a worrying picture of a man whose hit hard by the economical downturn. The idea that those who teach the next generations cannot sustain themselves is something is is quickly hitting home, with a pivotal scene in a bank proving that those below the breadline are merely statistics in the green tinted eyes of the banks.  The film plays out such moments with more than enough confidence.

My review of Warrior comes across as more negative than it should be. The film is solid, glossy, life-affirming entertainment all the way through. The MMA fighting hasn't reached the visceral punch that certain boxing films have but for the first MMA feature, the fights have enough crunch to them. The drama is held up by great performances and the film has Kurt Angle as a silent Russian cage fighter (what's not to love about that?). The film does what a decent sports drama should do and that's having you punching the air at all the right moments. As I had the screen to myself I did so with gusto.