The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Warrior | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Warrior

Directed by: Gavin O'Connor
Starring: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte
It's good sometimes to jump into the unknown. I'm not a fan of MMA fighting and never will be so it was with trepidation that I approached this movie. Had it been boxing I would have been a lot more enthusiastic but the thought of two guys who look like extras from "Mad Max" tugging at each others shorts in a cage just doesn't do it for me. Within five minutes that trepidation was gone. This blows away any boxing movie since "Rocky II". The fact is it could have been set in the world of competitive Tiddlywinks and I still would have loved it. Why? Because it belongs to that rare breed in contemporary cinema - a simple story well told.
Hardy returns home after a fourteen year absence to confront his former alcoholic father (Nolte in a career best turn) who it's implied was beating his mother. He asks Nolte to train him for an upcoming event referred to as "The Superbowl of MMA". Nolte agrees whole-heartedly, assuming this will be a chance to make amends. Hardy however lets him know in no uncertain terms that it's strictly business and proceeds to mentally abuse his father on a scale that will make you want to reach into the screen and give him a slap. Meanwhile Nolte's other son and Hardy's older brother Edgerton has lost his teaching job and is about to lose his house. He was once a low-level MMA fighter and to his wife's chagrin returns to this world to try and keep his family afloat.
Of course we know these two paths will inevitably collide. There's nothing particularly original about this story but that's fine with me. I'd much rather a cliched but engaging story over an original but unengaging one.
What is original is the approach to these characters. Had this been made by an Italian-American ala "Rocky" or "Raging Bull" the conflict would have been very operatic with lots of scenes of characters baring their souls, shouting, punching mirrors and the like. This movie deals with Irish-Americans so it's the complete opposite. There are no histrionics, no tears, no emotional monologues, everything is pent up and concealed. This is the true test of a screen actor, can they portray as much with their eyes as a stage actor can with their voice? It's a test that the three leads excel with.
Nolte in particular is a revelation, cast against type as a quiet man who just wants to earn the right to embrace his children. He plays it like a dog who just crapped inside the house, he wants to lick your hand but knows he may well get his ass smacked.
Hardy is fast becoming the new Christian Bale, putting his body through intense physical changes, but for me he'll probably prove to be the better actor. I couldn't imagine Bale playing such a subtle role and pulling it off so naturally.
The only other time I had seen Joel Edgerton was as the young Uncle Owen in the Star Wars prequels where he basically just stood in the background. I predict this guy is going to be huge. He possesses a likable charisma that fools you into thinking you've seen this guy on screen for years. I was shocked to learn he's Australian, his American accent is flawless. It's ironic how few actors can play an everyman role but he does it brilliantly and really gets you on his characters side.
This may be released a tad early for Oscar recognition but it would be a crime if the acting in this picture goes unacknowledged next March. For me, unless something major happens in the remaining months, Nolte is a shoe-in for Supporting Actor.
For a film about two prize-fighters and an ex-alcoholic wife-beater this is a surprisingly "nice" movie, I don't even recall seeing any blood spilled in the fight scenes. You could watch this with your Grandmother and she'd probably be on her feet cheering at the end. In these cynical times it's refreshing. Sometimes nice is just, well "nice".