Review – Warrior

Who doesn’t love an underdog? Nobody, that’s who – there is nothing better than seeing someone fulfill a dream after beating the odds. Hell, Sylvester Stallone built an entire boxing movie franchise on the concept. Rocky gets beaten to a pulp in the first film, but audiences were crying out to see him win. Sport films can be a tad predictable due the need for the underdog to win. A shock twist can be a game changer (see ‘Million Dollar Baby’), but it’s normally a safe bet that the formerly wheelchair-bound hero, who has just learned to walk, is going to win the gold medal at the Olympics. ‘Warrior’ offers up not one, but two underdogs, and provides enough drama outside the world of mixed martial arts to make every punch count inside the ring, and will keep you cheering until the end.

Brendan (Joel Edgerton) and his wife Tess (Jennifer Morrison) work multiple jobs to support their family. They encounter money problems when the bank gives them news that they’re about to default on their mortgage repayments. To get more money Brendan secretly enters mixed martial arts (MMA) competitions. Miles away, Tommy (Tom Hardy) is trying to reconnect with his father (Nick Nolte) after spending years apart. After Tommy is filmed fighting at a local gym, the video goes viral and he is thrust into the world of MMA. When a fighting competition called ‘Sparta’ offers up a grand prize of $5 million, Brendan and Tommy see it as an opportunity to right the wrongs in their lives, but end up fighting for much more.

‘Warrior’ is a very powerful character-driven film. Many of the fight scenes take a backseat to what takes place outside of the fighting cage. The characters are well-written and the emotional journey they take is rewarding.

Bringing the characters to life is a heavyweight cast of veterans and future superstars. Edgerton is perfect as the little guy with a big heart, while Hardy is the lovable anti-hero who dishes out brutal punishment with his fists. Both actors physically transform into modern day gladiators and are believable as MMA fighters. Their ability to handle the physical and emotional elements of ‘Warrior’ shows why they’re both fast becoming hot properties in Hollywood. Nolte is brilliant playing a recovering alcoholic that has ties to the fighters and Morrison breaks up the sausage fest and avoids being the stereotypical ‘worried wife’. Mentions must also go to Frank Grillo as an unorthodox trainer and Kevin Dunn who provides a few laughs.

‘Warrior’ has a very slow pace and director Gavin O’Conner gives his characters enough time to properly develop. It’s all a huge build up to the final tournament, but some of the excitement gets lost in the finer details. ‘Warrior’ starts to get predictable in the final act as it goes through the motions of most boxing/fighting films, but the characters are so likable that it’s hard not to cheer for them.

‘Warrior’ is perfect from men who wear their heart on their sleeve and women who like their men hard on the outside and gooey on the inside. A love for MMA also helps but there is enough to keep everyone happy – unless you’re Amish.

3.5/5

‘Warrior’ opens in Australian cinemas 27 October 2011

The Popcorn Junkie

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