If you haven't seen this movie by the time it came out in theaters to the public, you weren't paying attention for a free advanced screening. The studio putting out this family drama that deals with Mixed Martial Arts fighting, played it so often for so many people that they came across desperate and needy. They needed it to have a huge fan base before it even came out because MMA fighting is so niche that unless there was a buzz about it, only those fans would see it. It built up that buzz but I'm not sure why.
The trailer for this film gives away 95% of the movie so if you didn't see it, you're ahead of the game. A colossal advertising mistake on the part of the studio. Another mistake in the advertising for Warrior was promoting that director Gavin O'Connor was the same guy responsible for Miracle, the 2004 movie about one of the most exciting sporting events ever (the US Olympic Hockey team beating the Russians) that was done with the quality of a made-for-TV movie; a true disastrous cinematic misstep. It now appears that O'Connor has another misstep under his belt.
He tried so hard to go gritty with Warrior. It's dimly lit, it's filled with seedy locations and about a sport that's still a little taboo in the mainstream of America. However it does it in a PG-13 filter which might be the biggest mistake made. These characters are deeply troubled, angry and come from backgrounds that would lend a filthy vocabulary to realism. Not only is that void from the film but so is BLOOD! Seriously?! You have one of the most violent sports on the planet and you don't show any blood?! How are we suppose to feel the gravity of each epic battle these guys fight in the octagon if, at the end of it, they barely have a bruise? That's one of the aspects of what made Rocky so good; a film which this will get unfairly compared to this a lot. Don't believe the hype...it's FAR from Rocky. But at the end of Rocky we can see the abuse his body and face took. Christ, we even see Rocky's eyelid get sliced open in an attempt to keep the fight going! Make it realistic or don't make it at all.
The silver lining for Warrior is the acting. It stars Tom Hardy (Dark Knight Rises, Inception), Joel Edgerton (Star Wars prequels, Animal Kingdom) and Nick Nolte (Tropic Thunder, Cape Fear). Nolte gives us one of his best performances as their heavily damaged father fighting for his redemption in his sons' eyes. His performance is heart-breaking and tragic and exactly what Oscar nominations are made of. He would totally deserve the statue as of right now. Hardy and Edgerton give great performances too. Hardy has all the silent, steely resolve of a young Marlon Brando. Sadly the script doesn't give either a decent shot at having a moment that shows it off.
Sure there is an impressive level of attention that was paid to the sport and getting techniques just right. I appreciate that. The moves are real and the MMA cameos are plentiful. But that only impresses me so much. At the end of the day, you still need to tell a story that is told in a compelling way. Warrior doesn't really do that. The last 20 minutes of the movie is epic and exciting. It builds to a climax that makes it hard to maintain a dry eye or avoided goosebumps. But the first two hours (yes this movie is almost two-and-a-half hours long) is slow, choppy and plodding. I give credit to those that make it to the end; they're the real warriors...because they fought to stay awake.
Warrior (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: B-