Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Warrior, What Is It Good For?

Boxing movies aren't generally my thing, but I recently decided to make an exception for one from a few years back, Warrior. (It's actually about mixed martial arts, but given that there aren't many MMA movies, I hope you'll forgive me blurring the lines a bit.) I'd heard enough sporadic praise of the film to give it a shot one afternoon... and was generally reminded why I don't watch these kind of movies.

Warrior follows the template for a fighter movie. Against long odds, and with "something to prove," an unlikely hero must fight his way to the top. The wrinkle here is that Warrior follows two men, brothers, as they both enter the same MMA competition for very different reasons.

I imagine it was the performances that drew the accolades for the film. The two brothers are played by Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy, and each gives a committed and intense performance. There's more to their roles than just the physical component. The brothers both have a strained relationship with their alcoholic father, played by Nick Nolte, and the film serves up strong scenes exploring those relationships. There are several other supporting characters with good moments too, the standouts being Jennifer Morrison as Edgerton's conflicted (but thankfully, not suffocating) wife, and the very funny Kevin Dunn as the principal at the high school where Edgerton's character teaches.

Still, even acknowledging some good acting, I don't understand the love for the film overall. This movie slavishly follows the formula for this subgenre, despite its two protagonists. Twenty minutes in, you know not only how it's going to end, but every major beat it's going to hit along the way. And when it then takes two more hours to do that? Well, my attention certainly wandered.

The movie seems to pretend there will be suspense in the inevitable confrontation between the brothers: who will win? But with every hackneyed trick in the Hollywood playbook, the film telegraphs exactly what the outcome will be. If you can't figure this one out, you must not watch very many movies. (And if you don't watch very many movies, you owe yourself a better one than this.)

There may be good acting here, but it's all coming from performers who have done as good or better in other things. Perhaps enthusiasts of MMA will like the fight choreography. (Then again, they might not find it realistic, for all I know.) I can only give Warrior a C-.

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