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Mixed Martial Arts Movie Warrior Packs a Mean Punch

Posted on the 16 September 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

Mixed martial arts movie Warrior packs a mean punch

Tom Hardy. Photo credit: Craig Grobler

Both mean, meaty and, according to The New York Times critic A. O. Scott, possessing surprising “poetry and finesse”, Warrior is a muscular drama that pits two brothers against each other as they search for redemption in the ring. The particular ring they duke it out in is about as far from the world of gentlemanly fisticuffs as you can get: Mixed Martial Arts, the increasingly popular sport that Warrior takes to the big screen, allows for some no-holds-barred pugilism. The fight scenes here are visceral and gruesome.

Bad-blood between the brothers means that each signs up for the $5 million Sparta MMA tournament unaware of the other’s participation. Their motivations for fighting highlight their separation. Family-man Brendan (Joel Edgerton) has been sacked from his job as a high-school teacher after being caught scrapping in a car-park, goaded on by the need for enough cash to prevent the bank foreclosing on his home; Tommy (Tom Hardy), recently returned from a tour of Iraq, is simply spoiling for a fight. He hires the pair’s formerly alcoholic, abusive father – an adept wrestling coach – to train him, all the while subjecting Nick Nolte’s weather-beaten brawler to withering scorn.

Champion. A. O. Scott was knocked out by Warrior. It grounds its primal and archaic fable of fathers and sons in “the painful realities of contemporary America.” The brothers fight because traditional routes to respectability have been pulled from beneath their feet: “The roads to an honorable life promised by work and military service are mined and muddied by the greed and mendacity of the institutions — government, schools, banks — that are supposed to uphold integrity.” The giving and receiving of pain becomes their way of finding meaning in life. They may be fighting for money, but the real stakes are deeper: the most disarming thing about Warrior is that, “for all its mayhem, it’s a movie about love”.

Why can’t they both win? The audience’s affections aren’t full-Nelsoned into backing a favourite, said Roger Ebert in The Chicago Sun-Times. “We understand and like both characters, and so does the film.” This is a rare fight-movie in which “we don’t want to see either fighter lose.” It’s conclusion packs serious clobber.

Punch-drunk. Mary Pols of Time felt that the three principle characterizations were compelling, but the film’s weaker elements: the story “darts around too much”, and never satisfactorily explains why Tommy would hire the father he seems to hate so much as his trainer. Hardy channels Stallone’s Rocky, “but takes the wounded-animal act so far he becomes remote.”

Repetitive attack. Andrew O’Hehir got in a few more jabs at He sniped that the film “tells virtually the same story as David O. Russell’s The Fighter, except that it offers two miraculous palooka comebacks for the price of one.”

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