A good trailer can make or break a movie. I had the chance to check out Warrior during its theatrical run despite knowing very little about MMA. I know MMA has risen to the level of fame that boxing once achieved and is one of the quickest rising sports in America today. I know that MMA has raised a new breed of gladiators and men of steel that people look up to and can’t wait to see pummel their oponents. Aside from that almost everything I know about MMA, I learned from the trailer of Warrior.
The actual film, Warrior, turned out to be a fun movie experience for me. It was kind of a underdog tale and a hint of of Rocky and Cinderella Man in an octogon cage. It follows the tale of two estranged brothers broken apart years ago by the effects of an alcoholic father as they both turn to an MMA tournament to solve their financial woes. One, a school teacher who is losing his house and the other a military man who takes the MMA world by storm trample over some of the best and biggest names in MMA to take home a 5 million dollar purse. For each of them it isn’t about fame, its about the pay day- something both of them so desperately need.
Warrior is actually a good movie and has some great things going for it. The problem is that a trailer for the film exists. It’s obvious that in some ways the trailer works, as I actually checked out the flick. However, they announce in the trailer who is involved in the championship match-up. Because of that you really have no fear of either brother’s win/loss rate because the trailer has pretty much pre-determined their destiny. The makers of this film coulnd’t just let you know who was involved in that championship bout with the theatrical teaser, even the 30 second tv spots announced the final battles. While that does add a level of interest in the film, it also turns out to be a huge deterrant. I never for one second felt like either was going to lose their fights because I knew the end result. So we spend the movie slowly building to a climax that we want to see, but know is coming the entire time.
Nick Nolte tries his hand as a recovering alcoholic who wants to reassemble the pieces of his family in the film, although it is a plot that I don’t feel is really completely explored. I suppose the film is trying to emulate real life, where everything isn’t tied up in nice neat little packages at the end. However I wondered why we spent so much time on a plot point that didn’t really grow to fruition by the film’s conclusion. Tom Hardy is perhaps the standout performance in the film as his character is a person you love to dislike and yet cheer for at the same time. Hardy brings a level of intensity to his role that goes un-matched. It’s a perfect meld between a well written character and a solid performance that makes it all work in the finished product. But Hardy takes a sideshow role to Joel Edgerton, an actor who has been an actor in Hollywood for quite some time but just hasn’t made an impact. Edgerton’s role as a teacher/MMA fighter seems to be an ease for him to do and is convincing in both roles. I liked to think of him as a cool Mark Curry like teacher (Circa Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper days) except he’s white- and he punches people in the face. His character has a nice story arc and is the underdog that you love to root for.
Aside from the trailer giving away too much info, Warrior suffers many of the same plot tropes that many other films in this genre suffer from. It’s an underdog tale with an equal amount of drama outside the ring as well. Like Rocky and others,Warrior tries to rely on outside drama and an long shot tale to carry the film with a training montage for good measure. Yet, the training feels uninspired and blah, and we of course have to spend time dealing with the plot point of a wife who just doesn’t understand why her “former fighter” of a husband turns to fighting when the going gets tough. Why do the wives of former fighters always become so shocked when they want to fight? Warrior also spends its budget money by giving on screen time to former Olympic Gold Medalist and now professional wrestler Kurt Angle; I am not sure that this is money well spent. Angle attempts to play Koba, a Russian MMA monster, that many feel can not be beaten. His lines are few but show no acting ability from him. Angle is there as a hulking, sterioded beast of a man who can fake some amazing ring work for the film. His ring work is the one area that he suceeds in; however for the record you don’t make Angle tap out- Angle makes you tap. Angle provides perhaps the most intense fight sequence in the film aside from the final battle. But the problem is I didn’t think he was Russian– ever. If he’s Russian then I live on the Russian space station. All Angle’s performance as Koba did was make me pine for a Ivan Drago character instead who would touch gloves with both of the brothers and coldly say in a ‘roided voice, “I must break you.”
Many will probably read this and say that I am comparing and contrasting Warrior to Rocky a bit too much, but I really feel that it is hard not to. Both films have similar plots and even a similar feel to them. Warrior however, despite being enjoyable just doesn’t seem to pack the same punch the Stallone and company have managed to do for 5 installments. (Yes, there are 6 Rocky films, but let’s pretend Rocky V: Go For it! doesn’t exist). Warrior tries to pack a punch and just doesn’t quite achieve that level of greatness. However, Warrior is the Rocky of MMA films and perhaps the best film surrounding the sport to date (even though the list is quite small). It’s a good story that despite the spoilers from the trailer leaves you wondering who takes final prize at the end of the day. I was pleasantly entertained for 2 hours even though I didn’t know a thing about MMA. Somehow I think you will be too. Whether you are looking for a action packed MMA flick or a uplifting underdog tale, I think you’ll enjoy Warrior. Check it out if you get a chance.