Skip to main content

The devil you know is better than the devil you don't



Gavin O'Conner's Warrior is everything a good boxing movie should be. One cannot help but to become emotionally invested in the two leads, the fights are riveting, and the final victory is earned and profoundly moving. I loved this movie. Granted, I have a softspot for boxing movies. Sports of hand to hand combat are naturally cinematic. Inherent in the sport is a compelling story arc. There's conflict, struggle, conquest, and in the world of boxing, most fighters are among the underclasses of America, so they are all underdog stories. This alone is the bones of a good movie, as long is it avoids the pitfalls of being too saccharine and too heavy handed. Warrior avoids this with the power and authenticity of it's leads and a setting of modern, post-market crash, war torn America.

Tommy Riodan (Tom Hardy) returns to the home of his childhood, not to make amends with his alcoholic father (Nick Nolte), but to enlist him as his trainer for a mixed martial arts tournament. The unexpected appearance of Tommy is cloaked with mystery. He says little, but he is an imposing figure that has been destroyed by circumstances. However, he is a force to be reckoned with in the ring, which is revealed in a sparing match in a small gym when Tommy takes down the middle weight contender in a matter of seconds. Tommy's estranged brother, Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) is similarly broken by life. He is a high school physics teacher, underwater on his mortgage, who is suspended without pay when it is discovered that he is earning money on the side in fights in the parking lots of strip clubs. Brendan provides a stark contrast to his pill popping, unhinged brother. He too is a skilled fighter, but a controlled fighter who plays by the rules. He does it for the money to support his wife and daughters, one of which has an expensive, heart condition.

Probably the strongest element of Warrior is provided by the authenticity of the two lead actors. Tom Hardy's career took off after he bulked up to become the notorious English convict, Charlie Bronson and he again brings a similar physical menace to Tommy. Probably having no more than a dozen lines in the film, Hardy dominates the film with his powerful build and aggressive demeanor, but also vulnerability. However, all vulnerability is absent when Tommy is in the cage, where he is reminiscent of Kurosawa's samurai heroes, striking down any challenger in the blink of an eye, with a single sword strike. Tommy's fights are over before his opponent has a chance to fight back and he exits the cage before the fight can be called. Joel Edgerton gives a similar level of authenticity and believability to Brendan, since he has an athletic physique that is not in top condition, about what one would expect from a teacher that fights on the side. And he is probably not new to physical roles, since Joel Edgerton wrote many of the films that his brother, stuntman Nash Edgerton directed. Both Hardy and Edgerton were plausible as brothers and very natural as fighters.

While Warrior succeeds as a solid sports movie with great fight scenes and an exciting climactic win, at it's heart, Warrior is a film about family and forgiveness. Gavin O'Connor has made a film that is devoid of any cynicism. There is real compassion for Brendan and Tommy in their struggles to redefine masculinity. Both have rejected the violent and domineering model of manhood provided by their father, Paddy Conlin (Nick Nolte), but the alternative paths taken by the brothers have failed them. Tommy became a soldier to escape his past and Brendan became a teacher and a family man, but in the post-9/11 world, both are damaged by not only their alcoholic father, but also the war and the lack of any kind of social safety net. But in Warrior, Tommy and Brendan find forgiveness and redemption when they face off in the ring in what should have come across as trite, in a film with so much honesty and heart, Warrior instead becomes triumphant.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhastan

Right after seeing Sacha Baron Cohen's film, Borat, I was disappointed. I didn't laugh nearly as hard as I had hoped and it wasn't quite as outrageous as I had expected. But in retrospect, I have to admit the comic brilliance of Borat. Sacha Baron Cohen has adeptly created a film about a fictional man, Borat, from a fictionalized Kazakhastan and used this creation to show the hipocracy of America. Using tactics pioneered by reality television shows, Borat travels across America on a quest to find his true love, Pamela Anderson. On this journey, he meets numerous people who share their thoughts about a multitude of things, exposing the way some Americans really believe about race, class, homosexuality and the other sex. It is a very interesting film. Sure, it gets laughs from ambushing Pamela Anderson with a wedding bag, traveling with a bear, and a bit of naked wrestling, but this film is also very smart in its sly portrayal of the wealth of prejudices that are ali

Girls who are boys, who like boys to be girls...

Where does one begin? Peaches Does Herself is a German concert movie of Peaches. Written by, Directed by and starring Peaches. But how does one describe this experience? Normally, I skip the Face the Music program of films at SIFF each year, but Peaches Does Herself was described as the queerest film in the festival. As it turns out, I knew exactly one Peaches song prior and still know little to nothing about her, but it didn't matter. I enjoyed the music and most of all, I loved her persona. Her sexuality was on display and was not only unapologetic, but read as loud as if it were a billboard with "fuck normalcy and judgement, this is who I am" in bright pink neon. To give an overall impression of the film, I've decided just to lay out what happens along with stills. I suspect that is the best I can do for readers to decide whether this is something they should seek out. The film begins in Peaches' bedroom and after the dancers climb through a giant vu

My attempt at Filmspotting's Top 5 List

I just finished listening to Filmspotting podcast, episode #296, and I've been inspired to begin a small project. My concept of great cinema has changed now that I live in a place with so many choices. When I lived in Anchorage, I primarily saw movies at the local Art House, Capri Cinema. Rand, being an out gay man, tended to show a lot of GLBT cinema as well as the better known independent/art house films. The years I lived in Columbia, I watched more mainstream film and really, just about everything that came to town that sounded at all interesting. But in Seattle, the choices are overwhelming by comparison. Sometimes I'll see a classic film, or a film with a lot of buzz, and there are a lot of foreign language films, because of the wide variety of cinema I have access to, I am now a very devoted fan of Asian cinema. The filmmakers in Hong Kong, Korea, China, Japan, Thailand are incredible. And this isn't at all limited to the genre films that have made Asian film