Lionsgate recently contacted my gym Emerald Smoke and offered us free passes to a screening of the new film Warrior. For those of you who do not know, Warrior is a film based on two MMA fighters (Tommy played by Tom Hardy and Brendan played by Joel Edgerton) who are also brothers removed from each others lives at an early age. Circumstances bring them back together under the drunken watchful eye of their father Paddy, played by Nick Nolte. Given that the movie will not be released until September, I will not divulge any more plot details other than to say the movie deals heartily in MMA without eclipsing the importance of the story.
I must admit, I was skeptical about how well MMA would translate to the big screen and if the story would be overshadowed by a desire to include cheesy fight scenes a la Never Back Down. Surprisingly, I walked out of the theater one step short of awed. Warrior is not a good movie, it is a great movie. The only realistic cinematic comparison is probably The Fighter and, although Warrior is not a true story, it substantively holds up to The Fighter's lofty credentials. Tom Hardy's wrenching portrayal of Tommy is Oscar-worthy, the fight scenes are realistic and well-composed, the characters are real and flawed, and the story is relatively believable.
As I watched, I began to wonder if this might be the type of movie that shoves MMA further into the mainstream. I would certainly hope so as Joel Edgerton's portrayal of Brendan demonstrates that an MMA fighter might very well be your suburban neighbor, and that is definitively not a bad thing.
So cheers to Lionsgate, Gavin O'Connor and Greg O'Connor for having the guts to take a stab at MMA on the big screen. Warrior could have very easily been a lame compilation of fight scenes backed by stabbing heavy metal riffs and a story about the local outcast teen chasing his high school's popular girl, where MMA acts as solely as the medium for the outcast's revenge. Instead, it is a stirring story about redemption, perseverance, values and inner strength . . . with some really great fight scenes in between. The only thing disappointing about Warrior is that I have to wait another month to see it again.
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