Thursday, 29 September 2011

Warrior (2011)

Dir: Gavin O'Connor (Pride & Glory)
Cast: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison
USA, 2011

Seen: September 15, 2011 at Scotiabank

Reason to see: It's on my list of Most Anticipated Films of 2011 (#8)

I was so excited to finally get to see Warrior, although looking back I think I shouldn't have smished it into my schedule of TIFF viewings. I forgot I usually choose a palette cleansing film where my expectations are nil and that somehow resets my film viewing from festival mode to normal (previous years palette cleansers have been Whiteout and The Protector). But I did the festival a bit differently and that led me off track, and I think that didn't help my film watching experience and I wish I could revisit it under different terms. But, to take a lesson from the film itself on not going back but forward and you gotta do what you gotta do attitude I'll push though.

Warrior stars Joel Edgerton (Animal Kingdom, The Square) and Tom Hardy (Bronson, Inception) as estranged brothers who separately dive into a MMA (mixed martial arts) competition. Both come from previous fighting backgrounds and are not only estranged from each other but also their recovering alcoholic father (played by Nick Nolte). I was completely ready to love Warrior. It was not one, but two of my current favourite actors (Tom Hardy & Joel Edgerton) and it's got mixed martial arts. That's well more than enough for it to be a film I've been looking forward to for over a year, but even with doing my best to avoid trailers and the marketing it felt very clear even before sitting in the theatre where the film was going. I know I'm more sensitive than most on spoilers and there is a certain attitude that sports films tend to sway the same way, but I still felt it was very clear where we are going. If I had connected to one or both of the brothers stories, I think it would have helped. It's not that they aren't compelling or timely, both of them are - I just didn't quite get there with them.

What I did love is the honesty in the family relationships, that they wore they own hurt and that family history lived in different memories of the two brothers and their father. That felt very real to me and I appreciated the emotional journeys of the characters. Switching gears completely, the other thing I loved about the film was the pomp and circumstance of the competition and general MMA-ness, it totally took me back to the days of when I watched wrestling for hours on end with my siblings and most often with my own brother. There is a certain attitude that goes along with that world of sports entertainment that is like no other. Oddly the space that divides those two things of pomposity and family drama is the space where I found the film sat the most, and I wasn't quite with it for that ride. And it was a long ride of 2h20min, and even on that I feel divided - I appreciated the depth of the stories but I just wonder if we needed it all. It also stands apart from many sport films as it doesn't feel like other of the characters are fighting for the joy of the sport or a strive to excellence, but rather for the money and there is an air of desperation and helplessness that's although resonates currently, it's not a comfortable place to be.

I think I need to give it some time and watch it again, because I want to love it and I only liked it. I would have loved to see the fighting itself more clearly as oppose to the fast cuts and often through or with obscurities, but I have a feeling that keeps it authentic with the MMA-verse. It's just the guys are all in such great shape it would have been awesome to really see the action a little clearer as a personal preference. But as a family drama and that speaks to the extraordinary challenges people face, I think it's a win-win.

See also: Warrior DVD Review

Shannon's Overall View:
I wanted to loved it
I'd watch it again
I'd recommend it to fans of fighting films

Also see: All 2011 Films Reviewed, Most Anticipated Films of 2011 and All Film Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

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