We have all seen them. The sports films with the predictable story lines, drama, epic montages, and inevitable endings. Why do we keep watching them, and why do we still love them? Because they work. Many belittle the fact that someone, one day, discovered a formula that works. When you watch a movie with an ending you already know, it changes how you watch the film, but it doesn’t take away the juicy center. We all know when we sit down to watch a sports movie that there will be family drama, injuries, and the little guy pretty much always comes out on top. As long as the little guy is likable, we root for him, and somehow become invested in the story that we complain is “too predictable.” Ever since Rocky, or maybe even before then, filmmakers have been churning out their own recipes while using the same cookie cutter, but we like the shape so we keep coming back for more.
Warrior is no different. There is family drama, untold histories, mystery, money, and a lot of really good fighting. Less than a year after the favourite The Fighter came out, Warrior hit the screens, making a modest $13.7 million while receiving mixed reviews. The only thing that makes it not typical is that it’s a mixed martial arts fight, something we don’t see a lot of on the big screen.
It opens with Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy) showing up at his dad’s door, asking for help training again. There is clearly a lot of baggage between them. All we know is that Tommy and his mom left his dad (Nick Nolte) after his alcoholism and abuse clearly took things too far. What we don’t know right away is that there was a brother, Brendan (Joel Edgerton), who didn’t leave as planned, but instead stayed behind with his girlfriend and now wife, Tess (Jennifer Morrison).
Tommy is a ball of pent-up emotion that comes out in a fury when you put him in the ring. He’s an ex-marine and it shows. Brendan, on the other hand, has given up fighting to be an MVP of a different sort–in the classroom teaching science and trying to earn enough to provide for his little family. But when he finds out they might lose the house and have to declare bankruptcy, he jumps back in the ring and makes his way through parking lot fights just to keep the lights on.
Inevitably, the two brothers find out about the same massive tournament–the acclaimed olympics of MMA–Sparta. The prize is five million dollars. Both have their own reasons for wanting the money, and they will risk everything, even their lives to try and get it. Their stinging resentments toward each other and their father continues to boil and finally explodes in one of the most touching endings in a sports film I have ever seen.
Personally, I loved it. It’s the same formula, but I’m always a sucker for the sports films, especially for the epic montages. Tommy is a beast and a mystery which somehow makes him likable. Brendan is the underdog with a loving wife and a need to prove himself. It’s hard not to love them. Everyone, even the alcoholic father, is pathetic enough to jerk some tears. There is not a single performance that lets this film down, and the execution of the story telling is flawless. The camera work is fantastic, the lighting is consistently mood appropriate, and the editing is more than just the icing on the cake.
If you liked The Fighter, you should definitely give Warrior a try. I greatly appreciated that there was no preoccupation with drugs in this film. Although it was a little watered down with the family drama, I enjoyed that the drama was in the relationships and not in the substances, except for a little bit of alcohol abuse. I felt it left more time for the fighting and the really good stuff.