Genre: Sports, Drama
Two brothers must confront their past in the ultimate winner-takes-all MMA tournament.
Best known for his previous sports drama Miracle, director Gavin OíConnor writes and directs Warrior, a film he hopes will become ďthe Rocky of mixed martial arts.Ē With the sport growing faster than ever and all eyes on the battle for legalization in states like New York, fans of MMA have reason to be wary. Previous films, television shows, and even video games referencing the sportís culture, practioners, or image have been far from charitable, contributing to greater unease and misinformation among the general public. But right from the start, it seems apparent that a lot of love for the sport and the people apart of it went into OíConnorís movie. The culture of MMA is represented fairly accurately, with even a number of thinly-veiled real world analogs in the film. While the premise and backdrop of the story seem a bit on the unreal side, itís mostly a solid simulation of the world sports fans are familiar with. Japanese cinematographer Masanobu Takayanaki does a fine job lighting up the screen with a sense of both grandeur and intimacy. Complimented with strong sound design and a moving, if a bit questionable, score, Warrior is an impressive feat of aesthetics that does justice to the sport.
It must be said that the story isnít particularly innovative or original, and seasoned fans of sports dramas will likely recognize a great deal of popular genre tropes. However, it sets everything up well and amazing performances by the cast really outweigh any feelings of cheesiness. Joel Edgerton really gets the chance to open up on camera, and itís amazing to see him perform such an impressive role. Tom Hardy doesnít disappoint either, and delivers in a way that makes it impossible to fully love or hate his character. This is the very definition of a nuanced and human performance, and Hardy manages to hit just the right balance between heartless and compassionate. Nick Nolte as the brothersí father is outstanding as well, and the three actors elevate the film from just another sports drama to something truly worthy of becoming a classic.
Although definitely flashier than actual mixed martial arts fights, the on screen matches arenít unbelievable, and work well within the bounds of the film. The choreography is impressive and the performances hit hard. With cameras that mimic the real-life sports coverage, the scenes all feel dynamic and authentic. Fans may chuckle a bit at the fights, but I think the film deserves at least as much of a pass as boxing films do. This is a powerful film, with great action pieces and even better dramatic performances. This is the MMA movie fans have been yearning for, and this is the kind of movie we deserve. Go out and watch this movie, and bring all the non-fans you can find.
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