Warrior – A Preview

Forget David Beckham and the LA Galaxy, the fastest growing sport over the last 10 years in the US, and indeed the world, is Mixed Martial Arts.  What was once seen as barbaric as two men pounded each other senseless and looked for rear naked chokes in an octagon, has transformed into an art with great fighters such as Anderson Silva and Randy Coutre.  Despite the success of the sport, the same can’t be said for the attempts to portray MMA on screen.  They tend to be low budget straight to DVD flicks with one eye on quantity over quality.  For example, titles such as Never Surrender with George St. Pierre and Quinton Jackson or Blood and Bone with Michael Jai White have minuscule budgets, but the producers know they will make a profit due to the “star names” included.  Even more high brow attempts to portray MMA on screen such as David Mamet’s Redbelt, or the relatively bigger budget Never Back Down have suggested that the chances of seeing a good film focused on MMA were pretty slim.  That is until the release of Gavin O’Connor’s Warrior which boasts a solid cast in Nick Nolte, Joel Edgerton and the ever impressive Tom Hardy.

 

Warrior is the story of Tommy (Hardy).  An ex-marine who has returned home but finds himself lost in his new surroundings. Being a former boxer, he enlists the help of his alcoholic father and former trainer (Nolte) to prepare for an MMA contest that boasts a $5,000,000 purse for the victor.  As fate would have it, Tommy’s brother, Brendan (Edgerton), a high school teacher and former cage fighter has also entered into the contest.  Tommy and Brendan still have unresolved issues from their childhood, so the fights cease to become purely physical as they attempt to battle past demons inside and outside the cage.

 

What suggests that Warrior will be different from your standard low budget MMA fare, (the budget was only a third higher than that of Never Back Down) is that it appears to understand that a great sports film isn’t purely about the sport.  If you don’t have characters we can relate to, why we should care who wins or loses and what the individual outcome for each character will be.  Warrior puts the drama first, while making sure the action is believable.  And with solid performances from Nick Nolte and another physical performance from Tom Hardy, we could well have one of the best sports films in our midst since Rocky.

(First published in November’s issue of Groove Korea)

Categories: Film, Previews

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