Beat All That You Can Beat
Shamelessly ripping off “The Fighter,” “Warrior” is also about professional brawlers, inept parenting, overcoming substance abuse and sibling rivalry: Estranged years ago by an alcoholic father (Nick Nolte) now in recovery, the two Conlon brothers, Brendan (Joel Edgerton) and Tommy (Tom Hardy), will almost inevitably meet again in an Atlantic City mixed-martial-arts cage-match event called Sparta.
Movies of this ilk often come off as recruitment commercials for the Aryan brotherhood, but this one in particular just seems like a recruitment commercial for mixed martial arts. While the David O’Russell-helmed Mark Wahlberg vehicle was not subtle about spelling out the purpose of every single scene, Gavin O’Connor’s “Warrior” just beats you over the head with: Mixed! Martial! Arts! Sparta! J! J! Riley! Mixed! Martial! Arts! Sparta! J! J! Riley! Mixed! Martial! Arts! Sparta! J! J! Riley! The uninitiated would be inclined to assume mixed martial arts guru J. J. Riley is a real person since it’s an uncredited cameo by Mr. O’Connor himself. Indeed, the film drops J. J. Riley’s name so many times you’d think the makers were contractually obligated to do so.
That aside, “Warrior” is basically an action flick for chicks. You would not believe the amount of melodrama Mr. O’Connor and co-writers Anthony Tambakis and Cliff Dorfman managed to cram into the film. Brendan is a schoolteacher and family man facing foreclosure, while Tommy is an Iraq vet who heroically rescued his fellow soldiers while himself going AWOL. Once Tommy becomes a YouTube sensation, a whole battalion of uniformed servicemen starts turning up ringside to cheer him on despite the revelation that he’s assumed his mother’s family name to avoid arrest for his desertion. To help us relive the Cold War thrill of a politically correct common enemy, Olympian Kurt Angle plays a seemingly indestructible Russian name Koba who’s the man to beat. “Warrior” proceeds in such a predictable way that you can derive the maximum pleasure out of watching sweaty, half-naked musclemen beating each other senseless and justify it to boot.
Opens on Sept. 9 in the United States and on Sept. 23 in Britain.
Directed by Gavin O’Connor; written by Mr. O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis and Cliff Dorfman, based on a story by Mr. O’Connor and Mr. Dorfman; director of photography, Masanobu Takayanagi; edited by John Gilroy, Sean Albertson, Matt Chessé and Aaron Marshall; music by Mark Isham; production design by Dan Leigh; costumes by Abigail Murray; produced by Gavin O’Connor and Greg O’Connor; released by Lionsgate. Running time: 2 hours 19 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 by M.P.A.A. and 12A by B.B.F.C.
WITH: Joel Edgerton (Brendan), Tom Hardy (Tommy), Jennifer Morrison (Tess), Frank Grillo (Frank Campana) and Nick Nolte (Paddy).