Friday, February 17, 2012


I’ve always loved a good fight movie. But one thing I’ve come to realize is a good fight movie is really never about the fight. Usually, the fight or the big match serves as a metaphor or a journey for the main character to achieve some inner peace, reconciliation, or to find redemption with himself, his fellow man, or God.

You remember the movie Rocky, where Sylvester Stalone’s character, Rocky Balboa, was given a chance at the title for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. It really wasn’t about winning the fight but was about proving to himself that he had self worth, value as a person, and that he wasn’t just another bum on the street corner. His quest was to go 15 rounds with the Champ. And, if he was still standing, it would validate his life.

We’ve seen this formula repeated time and time again with other fight films such as The Wrestler, The Karate Kid, Million Dollar Baby, and The Fighter. Now comes along a new movie, The Warrior, from Director Gavin O’Connor that honors the tradition of Rocky and other great fight films. The Warrior contains more emotion, conflict, truth, reality, and honesty than you can find in ten films combined. This film is utterly gripping, blunt, and powerful. It is relentless in the telling of the human condition.

The Warrior may not necessarily be your cup of tea due to the violent nature and portrayal of mixed martial arts cage fighting. It’s hard to believe anybody would want to endure such punishment that could result in life-altering consequences; however, maybe this is why the Warrior is so interesting. Why because the stakes are so high for all the characters we meet in this movie.

Bottom line if you are looking for a film that connects on an emotional level and offers a heavy dose of reconciliation and redemption, then The Warrior fits the bill.

The movie is basically a story about two estranged brothers and their relationship with their alcoholic and abusive father. Tommy Riordan (Tom Hardy) is fresh out of the marines where in Afghanistan his best friend was killed in action.

Tommy wants to provide financially for his friend’s wife and children. He seeks out the help of his father, Paddy (Nick Nolte), to train him for Sparta, a $5 million take-all ultimate fighting championship tournament. The deal is simple. All Tommy is looking for is a trainer and doesn’t want a relationship with his father because he blames him for his past sins. He and his mother were forced to leave, and on their own they struggled for survival. In the end Tommy’s mother dies a painful death. As a result, Tommy is filled with resentment, rage, and hatred. However Paddy is not the man he used to be. He’s now sober and has made his peace with God.

As the story plays out, the other brother, Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgeton), lives in Philadelphia and teaches Physics at a local high school. He is happily married to his high school sweetheart, Tess (Jennifer Morrison). Brandan and Tess along with their children face financial difficulties due to medical bills and face foreclosure.

Brandan, a former UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fighter, is forced to pick up club bouts to make ends meet; however, this doesn’t play well with school administration. Unfortunately, Brandan is suspended without pay. After a series of events, Brandan is given an opportunity to fight in Sparta as well. This sets up a classic battle as the two brothers are on a collision course. But, more importantly, they are locked in an emotional battle with each other. There is a tremendous amount of blame concerning past events that cannot be forgiven. Tommy feels that his brother deserted him and their mother when Brandon decided to elope with Tess. Both brothers are also trapped in their relationship with their father.

Paddy tries as hard as he can to convince them that he is a changed man and desperately wants to be part of their lives. Can these men find a way out of their predicament? Will the families survive? This is gut-wrenching material. It is 140 minutes of intensity from start to finish. And did I mention that the fight scenes are skillfully staged. They look as real as anything I have ever seen in a movie.

I have always been a fan of Nick Nolte’s work. His performance of Paddy is brilliant. In fact, this is the type of role that Nolte excels in. His gravelly voice and broken facial features fit the part perfectly along with the fact that he is a man who’s seen it all. I’m utterly convinced he is a man who desperately wants to find God.

I highly recommend The Warrior. It may surprise you how well a fight movie can be so human and compassionate.

You can find the movie on DVD and Blu-ray.

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