The Sexy Armpit’s featured writer Nick “N.J” Holden is back! Here’s his review of WARRIOR, a film featuring scenes filmed in Atlantic City as well as Tom Hardy a.k.a BANE in Dark Knight Rises!
You know what a crowd-pleaser is? Sure you do, when a movie makes the audience happy, such as when Daniel LaRusso rose up to kick uber-bully John Norris into the next world in The Karate Kid (the 1984 version, not the lame-ass remake) or when T.S. finally won Brandy’s heart in Mallrats (with a little assistance from good buddy Brodie). Both movies told simple stories and relied on the strength of the characters to push everything forward, and in some cases, made the film memorable despite plot holes and typical Hollywood clichés. The new film Warrior is a throwback to the crowd-pleaser, and while it won’t score points for originality, it makes up tremendously in character and brutal, but not gratuitous, martial arts action.
Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) is a former mixed martial artist turned teacher who is faced with overwhelming debt that threatens to leave him and his family homeless. Long estranged from his father (Nick Nolte), a former alcoholic boxer, he soon finds himself competing in small independent venues until he sees the brass ring; Sparta, an elimination-style tournament in Atlantic City that could help him avoid financial disaster. On the other side of the spectrum is his younger brother Tommy (Tom Hardy), a former Marine running from his past who turns to his father to help him train for Sparta. Eventually, after several violent battles, the brothers find themselves facing each other in the main event amidst much tension and family drama.
Basically, it’s Rocky meets The Fighter, only set in the world of MMA, fitting since it has exploded all over due to the popularity of Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, Strikeforce, and other promotions all over the world. Actors Edgerton and Hardy completely immerse themselves into their roles by bulking up (especially Hardy, who looks like a smaller version of The Hulk) and undergoing extensive martial arts training for the film’s numerous fight scenes. Also appearing in smaller roles are real-life fighters Nate “The Great” Marquardt, Erik Apple, and Anthony Johnson, giving the film an authentic feel. The appearance of TNA wrestler Kurt Angle as an invincible Russian fighter (shades of MMA superstar Fedor Emelianenko) seems a tad cartoonish, but the showdown between him and Brendan is one ferocious battle to be seen on film. Nick Nolte does an admirable job as the absentee father who tries to reconnect with both sons, but finds himself at odds with his own demons.
Mostly set in Pennsylvania, the film’s conclusion takes place in New Jersey’s own den of sin, Atlantic City. One of the more memorable takes place in the dead of night on the shores of NJ, when both brothers have a powerful reunion, with each man not sure of the other’s motives or if their fractured family will survive their in-cage encounter. A strength in Warrior is the focus on the individual above all else; there are no real villains that stand in the way of the brothers’ quest for glory, only their own pasts. Brendan struggles with trying to decide if he really has what it takes to go all the way and take home the ultimate prize. Tommy is running from his past and, while begrudgingly trains under his father, tries to make up for his own misgivings as a son and soldier.
The film does have its flaws, however. It runs a tad too long (a hair over two hours) and the conclusion does leave many unanswered questions as to where the family stands after the final fight. It also has the clichés we’ve seen before; the principal who is against Brendan, then cheers him on, Brendan’s students all rallying for him, and montages of the training regiments. But if you’re into a crowd-pleaser on a nice weekend night or a fan of MMA, then Warrior is a nice breath of air; not fresh air, but good air nonetheless.