Monday, September 12, 2011

Warrior Holds Its Own

By Karl Scarano-Schulze, Top Critic
Hollywood, California

I’m lucky to have a nice home where I don’t have to fight any big dogs to earn my kibble. Sure, sometimes I like to wrestle with my dad, but it’s all in good fun. But for some dogs I know, fighting is a way of life. They have to stay lean & mean, ready to throw down at any moment, if they want to be top dog. Those guys should go see Warrior.

Warrior is about two estranged brothers who grew up fighting in the mixed-martial arts style, and were both trained by their mean ol’ dad. But then they grow up, and even though their dad is a little better now, life in general has gotten a whole lot tougher. So even though Tommy and Brendan don’t even speak to each other anymore, they wind up as underdog competitors in the world’s most high-profile MMA tournament. Tommy, the nice one, just wants to win some money to save his family home. But Brendan has some much deeper anger issues that he’s trying to punch away. When the tournament winds down to its final two contenders, well, just guess who they are. It’s brother versus brother in the fight of a lifetime!

Much like The Wrestler and last year’s The Fighter, Warrior is mostly dysfunctional family dynamic with a redemptive boxing match at the very end. But unlike those other two, this time it’s the family stuff that falls flat, and the fight scenes that are much better than average. The last half actually does a pretty good job of making up for a tedious beginning, and the big climax is surprisingly emotional. The casting of Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte was positively inspired – these two look like just the grizzled, worn out, cauliflower-eared father/son combo that you’d expect. Tom Hardy turns in a respectable performance, but just looks a little to GQ to be perfectly believable. And he can’t hold a candle to Christian Bale’s portrayal of Dicky Ecklund. But I sure wouldn’t want to be on his bad side, either, so don’t tell him I said that!

Summary: Takes forever to get interesting, but the ending packs a punch.

Wags: 3/5

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