Warrior (2011) – Mixed Martial Awful
Trailers are supposed to get you interested in watching the upcoming movie. They’re supposed to show you just enough to get you engaged and then drop you off with excitement buzzing in the theater. You then, if properly done, cannot wait for that release. During my viewing of Warrior, I experienced that with the upcoming Sherlock Holmes sequel. And I didn’t completely love the first one, that’s how awesome it was!
But in the months leading up to Warrior, that trailer did the exact opposite of its job. Not only was it not making me enthusiastic about the film about MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), but because it told me everything, I was dreading its release. I went into this motion picture expecting every cliche in the book thanks to that trailer. And while the most memorable line “the two men facing each other in the finals are brothers” wasn’t inflected in the same way during the movie, it did however tell me exactly what was going to end up happening. Sure enough, the two men facing each other in the finals were brothers.
Maybe the point is the story that leads up to that moment, right?
Well, I certainly hope not, because all of that ends up being cliche too. From the opening bell, we have a drunk visiting his now sober pop, trying to make sense of something that happened years ago. Lines are muttered with gravely voices in failed attempts at making every word meaningful in some way. And this process is repeated multiple times throughout. Say, when the other brother finally gets a chance to have an exchange with the old man. Or when the two brothers face off on the beaches of Atlantic City right before the big tourney that both were unexpectedly able to get into. One because he one-punch knocked out a pro that underestimates him, a cliche, and the other because a pro gets injured… also a cliche! Of course the only reason why the school teacher needs to fight is because the bank is foreclosing on his house. And the other brother? Well, okay maybe his motive is slightly more interesting. (And was one of the only things misleading about the trailer.)
The fact that absolutely nothing happens during the course of the movie that is moving, humorous, epic, awe-inspiring, or surprising in any shape, form, or fashion is all perfectly expected by this reviewer. After all, the trailer told me it was going to be this way. It warned me the family drama was going to be dull and unremarkable, it clued me in that we were going to say things like “I want to hear you say it / I can do this,” and finally it suggested that even the MMA action itself would pull punches due to the PG-13 rating.
There is absolutely no reason to watch this film. Sports movies are often reduced to bland cliches, but some of them find ways to move beyond the limitations of the genre and do something great. Either they feature three-dimensional characters that adapt and change over the course of the movie, or they move outside of the box to challenge the viewer in other remarkable ways. But just because this particular one is about a sport that has rarely been introduced to the silver screen, doesn’t mean it gets a pass as it flubs every other test of greatness. Not a single character is acted well, not a single scene is noteworthy. My advice: If you enjoy the sport, keep doing what you already are, and buy the next bout on Pay Per View.
Spoiler alert: this review will spoil not only Warrior, but possibly a few other movies. And off we go…
I understand the irritation with Warrior trailers, really I do. The first time I had a real issue with spoiler trailers was with Just Like Heaven. Yeah yeah, chick flick and all, but the first trailers made it seem a little interesting. Who is this mysterious ghost woman? If you go to a lot of movies, later trailers reveal that she’s in a coma somewhere. Seriously? That’s amazing, now I can save a few bucks/hours. Corpse Bride followed the same annoying trend – mystery, less mystery, oh what the heck, here’s the whole movie. Warrior definitely lost an element of tension, but I didn’t feel like it took too much away from the film.
Warrior follows the lives of two brothers (who end up fighting each other for the championship!) – one is an ex-Marine, appearing under mysterious circumstances and an absolute animal in the cage, while the 2nd was a mildly successful fighter turned teacher who has to go all the way to save his house, pride, and pretty Blond Doctor wife. Add gravely drunk Nick Nolte as the vaguely abusive father, and we’ve got our cast. The two are fighting for noble reasons, but in the end, only one brother may leave the championship that match that they are certainly going to fight against each other. Did I mention – THEY’RE BROTHERS!?
I wanted to see this movie for two reasons only: Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy. Edgerton is part of the award-winning Blue Tongue Film collective and Tom Hardy is… kind of insane but a fun actor. The problems started early with Tommy’s (Tom Hardy) brooding homecoming with his father. This first and very emotional scene could have been a great start to an action/drama, but it had an awkward vagueness that plagued every scene throughout the film. Tommy’s father did something, but they don’t come out and say it. His brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton) uses the same language – “Yeah, phone or letter – after that THING you did.” What thing? What did he do? Tommy and Brendan finally meet/argue/hash in an amazing chance meeting on the Atlantic City beaches before their big fight and they too argue about that plan that Brendan didn’t follow through on… WHAT PLAN? I’ve got to imagine it’s as ridiculous to watch two people argue about as it would by to attempt that kind of thing in real life. I think I’ll pick a fight with my wife about something I didn’t like, but never actually come out and say it. I might be The Sad Man tomorrow, but it could be fun.
There were a host of other problems with this film – pacing, edits, the entire believability of any actions, the premise that anybody can lose their house these days after a few late payments – but there was one redeeming aspect – THE FIGHTING. I’m not an MMA fan, but I do like well shot action. Every moment in the ring was intense, chaotic, and made you feel every massive hit. The sound design reinforced the brutal beat downs that Tommy administered and Brendan received. I’ve had the chance to sit 2nd row at an MMA event, and even that close, it’s just a bunch of slappy-sounding hits and grunting. Warrior gave us what we really wanted – bone-crushing hits, flips, tosses, and general mayhem in the ring. The intense, sweat and emotion laden choke-out at the end of the championship match could have been the most amazing moment in cinema history given all the great action, but I had laughed at the drama far too many times take it seriously at that point.
What went wrong? I think Warrior had the several writer problem like Cowboys & Aliens. Too many writers, too many plot lines vying for attention. My good friend Ryan pointed out that the story should have been told from one character’s point of view. It never had a focus and tried to cover too many perspectives at a time. Lose the 90′s high school kids, lose the wife with no convictions, cut some of the drawn out scenes, and you might have a movie.
While not the worse movie I’ve ever seen, it didn’t have enough action to hold my attention for the nearly two and a half hour runtime.