Thursday, February 09, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Warrior (2011) ***

PG-13, 140 min.
Director: Gavin O’Connor
Writers: Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis, Cliff Dorfman
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo, Kevin Dunn, Maximiliano Hernandez, Bryan Callen, Sam Sheridan, Kurt Angle

Watching “Warrior” I had to ask myself, “Is this really a true story?” Upon the film’s release last fall, it somehow got the reputation of being based on true events. Several critics reported it as such in their reviews. However, the movie was not advertized as a “true story,” and although some details were based on a U.S. Marine that one of the screenwriters interviewed before he went back for his third tour in Afghanistan, it would seem little in this movie is based on fact.

That does not diminish its power, however. It was just something I had to know.

The movie follows two estranged brothers. Their father is a recovering alcoholic, and the family broke up years earlier due to his drinking. One brother went with the mother, the other stayed with the father. Both are Mixed Martial Arts fighters. Both have a chip on their shoulders when they each enter a World Championship MMA title match unbeknownst to the other. The one who left has a bigger chip for several reasons. The one who stayed is just trying to protect his family from bankruptcy and the bad influence of the father.

It’s a pretty good sports flick. It does a good job engaging the emotional aspects of these men’s lives and working them into its classic sports film structure. It isn’t surprising that this film comes from the same director as the movie “Miracle”, about the miraculous Gold Medal U.S. Ice Hockey team in the 1980 Winter Olympics. With a smaller, more concentrated cast of characters, “Warrior” does a better job than that film of getting underneath the character’s skins. We care for these men, and so we care about the outcome.

What an audacious premise to have two brothers face each other on a world stage like this. It’s so unbelievable that it’s easy to think it must be true. It’s almost a relief to find out it isn’t. Surely, I couldn’t have missed that one in the news.

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