Friday, September 2, 2011

Ouch! Movie Review: Warrior

I saw a free screening of Warrior last night, but was too weary to say anything about it once I got home. The vivid impact of a first impression has somewhat faded, but nevertheless I am not without opinion.

In my opinion, this was a moderately successful sports movie. It had relatively lively Ultimate Fighting Championship action, mildly engaging characters, and a final victor that I genuinely was unable to predict.

Basically, you've got this horribly estranged family, with a recovering alcoholic father and his two sons. The wife/mother, after leaving and taking the younger son with her when the boys were teenagers, has long since died, so she won't be showing up to cause any trouble with whatever opinions she might have about anything.

Son One, Brendan, is a former UFC fighter who's now a high school physics teacher, with a hot wife and two adorable, rarely-seen children. He's doing OK, except that the bank is about to foreclose on his house, leaving him no option but to return to fighting to make some quick cash. He asks his good friend, a famous trainer, to help him train.

Son Two, Tommy, is a former high school wrestling champion who's just out of the Marines and takes up fighting for reasons that are initially unstated. He asks his father, who trained him in high school, to help him train again. The father wants to build a better relationship with him than the apparently hideous one they had when the boys were young, but Tommy is unreceptive to these attempts.

Basically, this entire group is weighed down by crushing emotional pain. Well, Brendan seems to be OK at relating to his family and his friend the trainer, but he's clearly got lots of father-and-brother-related emotional pain. Ouch!

Meanwhile, a winner-take-all fight has been set up, 16 fights in 48 hours culminating with a final battle to determine the toughest guy on the planet, with a five million dollar prize!

Will the two estranged brothers wind up fighting each other for the money? Will Brendan's wife, who's opposed to him fighting because he's been injured before and she's worried about him and probably they don't have any health insurance, relent and come to the fight to support him? Will the recovering alcoholic father relapse in a dramatic fashion? Will Tommy turn out to have a compelling reason to want to win the money, the way Brendan needs it to save his house?

Those of us who've seen a movie or two in our day may feel free to make some predictions about these questions.

Within the somewhat predictable rhythm of a sports movie, however, it did OK. And as I said, since the movie follows Brendan and Tommy pretty equally, I was genuinely not quite sure how it was going to end: normally you're rooting for an obvious character or team and they're going to get a thrilling victory, but in this case, it's harder to say.

Brendan is more generally likable, with friends and supporters, while Tommy's sort of morose and unfriendly, but of course Tommy has reasons, based on deep, hidden pain, so you're set up to sympathize with him too.

I felt the movie worked it out OK in the end. It was exactly like that Simpsons episode where Bart and Lisa are on opposing hockey teams, and then at the climactic moment they remember their shared past full of happy sibling moments, and both throw off their gear and embrace, jointly forfeiting the game. Then the crowd riots! It was awesome.

I'm just kidding, it wasn't exactly like that. But I like to remember The Simpsons.

Anyway, I'm no connoisseur of sports movies, but this one kept me sufficiently entertained that I wasn't looking at my watch every 10 minutes. The mandatory training montage is spiced up by splitscreens, so you'll see two or three scenes at the same time of different people training or sports newscasters hyping the coming fight. It was a collage montage, which I feel is an innovation that should be widely adopted (or perhaps has been, since I don't watch that many sports movies).

The acting was decent, and the fight scenes were full of dramatic punches and squirming and throws and pins.

In terms of relation to issues of health, the movie shows that training to fight can get you into really good shape, and that actually fighting can wreck up your pretty face something fierce.

I would say a main message is, don't be weighed down by crushing emotional pain. That stuff just makes your life as grim as all get out. Getting beaten up in a cage is a minor side issue in terms of ouch.

Another message is, do stop drinking if you're an alcoholic, because it somewhat improves your chances of reconnecting with your estranged sons. However, be prepared to wade through oceans of crushing emotional pain.

Another message is, times are tough and a lot of people really need money, and it's really hard to get enough of it to pay your bills, so sometimes you resort to desperate things. Which is all very well if you can beat up enough other guys to win five million dollars, but all the guys who didn't get the money, or who can't win a UFC fight, are on their own.


No comments: