Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"Warrior" review and thoughts

After the plugging of Andrew Peterson we sat and watched "Warrior" the other night.

The premise in a sentence:
Two hard pressed brothers end up competing in a major MMA (mixed martial arts) tournament.

More background:
A Marine vet, Tommy, shows up at the doorstep of his alcoholic father who he hasn't seen for about 10 years.  At around the age of 15, Tommy and his mom run away and leave behind a very promising wrestling career (under his father's training) and an older brother (Brendan).

So Tommy mysteriously shows up and begins training, under his dad's direction, for a MMA tournament.  Brendan (600 miles away) ends up in the same tournament in desperate need of the financial winnings or losing his house.

My thoughts (probably spoilers):
As much as this sounds like a simple Disney good luck film (which would be released on Touchstone because MMA is bloody) it isn't.  I found the dialog crisp and understated.  It lets pauses and faces tell as much of the story as the spoken lines.  The music (especially in the final fight) was great in squeezing and supporting the emotion and mood of the scenes.

I'm a moderate MMA fan.  I've watched fights and I find them enjoyable.  I know some element is the "fight" and who can be tougher; but I also see the strategy of setting up punches, kicks and moves.  That's compelling.  The MMA in Warrior is theatric - high flying and flashy.  It isn't to the point of being a turnoff for being so false, which is good.  I'm pretty sure Rocky has the same touch to true boxers and any law or hospital TV drama will have the same feel to medical and legal professionals.

One of the underlying themes is the father, Paddy, (played superbly by Nick Nolte) listening to "Moby Dick".  He's 1000 days sober and falls off the wagon after a brutally honest exchange with Tommy.  Ahab wrecks his ship, his crew and his life in pursuit of the white whale.  Paddy is drunk in the hotel listening to the story and yelling to "turn the ship around".  It seems like the entire movie was built around this scene.  It struck me as such an honest portrayal of the trap of relentless pursuit of a dream.  The addictions in our lives can be alcohol, drugs, and even our dreams.

The character stories are believable.  I found myself rooting for each of the main three characters and each has a battle.  The family complexities, brothers, father/son and husband/wife, are well played and not trite or glossy in this.  Each struggle is somehow understandable and heartbreaking.

I highly recommend this movie because it tells a life story and doesn't ignore the grit.  It does have MMA so be prepared to see guys punching each other and throw each other around the caged ring.  The story is good, the characters are simple but their struggles aren't; and neither are ours.

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