Wednesday, March 7, 2012

All the Clichés, But All the Heart Too.

Film: Warrior
Year: 2011
Director: Gavin O'Connor
Written by: Gavin O'Connor, Anthony Tambakis, Cliff Dorfman.
Starring: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo, Kevin Dunn, Maximiliano Hernández, Vanessa Martinez.
Running time: 135 min.

Imagine how Warrior must have looked on paper: another fighting movie about two brothers from a stuffed up family who are the underdogs that have to fight there way up and win against all odds. I can imagine the money-grubbers turning their heads away and wondering when the next movie about boxing robots was going to be pitched. Alas, even though Hollywood is partial to their clichéd stories that generally make everyone feel good, Warrior had the incomparable task of making Hollywood like it, and everyone else too (if you think about it, not many films succeed in that area). Like the story in the movie, Warrior was a film that not many of us expected great things to come out of. It was indeed the underdog who achieved some great things.


So if it was so clichéd or overdone, then why did it become such a success? Because it is not the movie you thought it was. Look at the trailer. It is trying to sell you this movie like it is some sort of Disney movie for adults. It isn't. For the most part, it plays out a little like The Fighter (and there's nothing wrong with that), before leading you into a trap that you saw coming the whole time but you don't know how to deal with it. If you're anything like me, you will probably feel an explosion of emotions because of the decisions that have to be made. And it is torture. What this film does, and does so well, is present to us something that we are all well used to seeing, and then punch us in the face when it comes down to it all. That's exactly what I like to see from a movie. But to be honest, who doesn't love an underdog triumphs all story?


While the film may comfort you with its scattered clichés, chances are that you won't be comforted by the characters and the stories behind them. We are first introduced to Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy), a former US Marine, returning to visit his former alcoholic father Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte). Tommy joins up with a local gym to train as a Mixed Martial Arts fighter, and despite his bitter attitude towards his father, he asks him to train him so he can go forth and win a huge tournament. His brother, Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton), who doesn't know that he is around, is a physics teacher with a wife (played by Jennifer Morrison, who is currently on the hit TV show Once Upon a Time) and two kids. Even though it would seem that they live a good lifestyle, they have run out of money. Instead of declaring bankruptcy, Brendan tries to earn money by fighting MMA in the carpark of a strip club, before also going forth to train for the huge tournament. These characters are wondrously crafted, with their stories running along side each other showing two people desperate to win that tournament. It doesn't throw huge issues like alcoholism at you like a ball of guilt. Everything is crafted so it is realistic, especially as it shows themes of reconciliation and human spirit without dipping it in treacle first.


It is a powerhouse of emotion, which is due to the great performances which its international cast draw out. Joel Edgerton may not be ground-breaking, but he plays his part of a man doing anything to keep his family afloat well. I'm glad to see that he is slowly getting more and more roles, and this film should be an advocate for that. In all honesty, though, this is Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte's film. They spend the large majority of the film together, and they create some of the best celluloid 2011 had to offer. Hardy plays the bitter and remorseful ex-US Marine with vigour, dripping anger off his every word. This creates a stark contrast to Nolte's character, who has searched for a better life after alcohol. Tommy teases and taunts him, brushes him off, tears him apart. It is heartbreaking to watch, especially when Paddy brings in an old record from Tommy's school days and he pushes him away. There are small moments like these when Paddy realises that there isn't any chance of reconciliation (nor is there any with Brendan, either), but when it all gets too much, it is absolutely shattering. That was the moment where Nolte not only earned that Oscar nomination, but had there been no Christopher Plummer, he should have won. And had this year's Best Actor race not been so cramped up, Tom Hardy should have snagged a nomination for himself, too.


Sports movie? Eh, this is not a sports movie. It is one hell of an emotional rollercoaster, with some pretty well filmed MMA fight sequences put in between. At 135 minutes, this movie only just overstays its welcome, but otherwise, it is one of the best films that 2011 had to offer. It goes above and beyond what that shonky pitch said that it would offer.

What I got:

22 comments:

  1. I agree, it's one of 2011's best and one of my favorites. I loved the interaction between Nick Nolte and the two leads, plus, the last fight between the brothers is heartbreaking and beautiful! Also, I thought Joel Edgerton was very good, quite a revelation for me in this one! Great review!

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    1. Oh...that last fight. I'm going to go and cry now :'(

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  2. I am doing a little dance knowing that you felt the same about this film as I did!! Nolte was amazing... I cried lots at the hotel scene!! Heavy stuff

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    1. Haha, I'm glad so many people feel that way! That hotel scene was quite heavy, I cried lots too!

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  3. It is time I saw this film. I have the DVD I just haven't watched it yet but with everyone giving it glowing reviews, and having enjoyed The Fighter, I think I need to catch up. Great review!

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  4. One of the best of 2011. Cried a lot too. Such a great movie. Nice to know that you love it too!

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    1. Nice to know that you love it - and cried a lot as well!

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  5. Great review Stevee. The cliches are there but Edgerton, Hardy, and Nolte rise this above being just than just Rocky with MMA. It’s a well-made and emotionally gripping story that brings out some real gut-wrenching moments as well as the great knock-outs.

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    1. I couldn't agree more - it was brilliant!

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  6. Yeah, i've been hearing good things about this one.

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  7. I liked Warrior myself. Totally formulaic but hey, there is a reason everyone sticks to the well-traveled path, it works! I think the performances were excellent except maybe for Tom Hardy's which I thought was a bit odd. His character seemed borderline mentally challenged at times. In any case, good review Stevee :)

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    1. You did not like Tom Hardy? I thought he was brilliant, but I can see where you're coming from! Thanks!

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  8. Great review! I enjoyed the movie a lot, especially the latter half - I love to see two shirtless men fight ^^ But I don't get the love for Tom Hardy, everyone keeps raving about him in every movie he is in, but I was never impressed with any of his work. Nolte was fantastic, though!

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    1. Hehe, as do I. I thought Tom Hardy was great in this and Bronson...I love him!

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  9. Glad to see that you saw this film, Stevee. Given the cliches, I was also surprised by how well it came out. There were some issues, but I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected.

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    1. I thought exactly the same! I wish I saw it before the LAMBcast because I would have gushed about it for ages, haha.

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  10. I actually didn't think it was all that cliched, I think the performances really made this film work for me. I cried a lot watching it so yeah definitely an emotional roller coaster for me. I agree about Hardy, but I also like Edgerton's performance. I even like this a bit more than The Fighter which has a similar theme.

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    1. It sure wasn't as cliched as I thought it would be. Glad to know that it was an emotional rollercoaster for someone else, too!

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  11. I wanted to cry everytime Nolte was on screen. Yeah the end was sooooo predictable but when they spend that long building the characters and making them that beleivable, you can forgive a bit of a silly story climax!

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  12. I agree Nolte was the runner-up at the Oscars.
    The film has a big heart indeed, and I loved it, but now I'm unsure if I want to rewatch it. Normally, I do long to revisit films I liked.

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You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.

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