Every cliche in the book. It’s difficult not to like, and some may find impossible not to love—but the script could’ve been written by Stallone. How could you ever knock a “Rocky” sequel and say you enjoy this? Oh, it’s well acted. It has a terrific trio of actors(Joel Edgarton as older brother Brendan Conlon, Thomas Hardy as younger bro Tommy Conlon and Nick Nolte as their recovering alcoholic dad). But even solid performances can’t make this script fly. I mean, a lot of this stuff was being done in the 1930’s with Wallace Beery. And even though this is a film about the relatively new sport sensation of mixed martial arts(MMA), make no mistake—this is a boxing film. And it follows the formula to a T. It even seems extremely self-aware(detrimentally so?)when a minor character makes reference to “Paulie” and “Adrian” in an early scene.          How cliched? Well, let’s take a tour. First up, Brendan, the older sibling. He’s a high school physics teacher. Not TOO bad, yet. But wait—turns out he’s working THREE jobs to make ends meet…and so is his wife(it’s never made clear, but one of her jobs might be a stripper—which is the non-sex version of “the-hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold”). Getting busy with those cliches now. Why so overworked? Well, their young daughter(almost never seen)has a heart problem AND they are about to lose their house to the bank. Getting thick now. So, Brendan happens by a bar parking lot MMA-contest(because that ALWAYS happens), signs up quickly—and wins easily(of course). Turns out he has an MMA-past, but that he hasn’t done it in years.           How about his kid brother, Tommy(shades of “Raging Bull”)? He’s an Iraq war vet who returns home to confront his raging alcoholic father. Okay. Turns out he ran away with his abused mom when he was just a boy, leaving pops to his booze and Brendan, who won’t leave because of his girlfriend and eventual wife(played dutiful-“Adrian”-style by Jennifer Morrison…”I’ll never watch you fight, Brendan”—yeah, right!). So Tommy and mommy set out on their own, struggle, and eventually mom dies from an undisclosed illness(oh boy). Tommy then fights in Iraq, goes AWOL after a friendly-fire incident kills his best friend…BUT, before getting back to the States saves a tank full of soldiers from a watery grave by ripping a door off of said tank with his bare hands—and it’s all captured on film under night vision conditions where you can clearly make out his face(that will come into play in the early stages of the film)despite all that’s going on in the frame. Ya’ got all that? After finishing going AWOL, Tommy arrives in the U.S. and pledges any wealth he might attain to his dead buddy’s wife(what else would he do?). So, he walks into a gym, challenges a top MMA fighter—and beats him easily(OF COURSE HE DOES!). And even though he despises his daddy, he hires his now-sober ass to train him(yo, Mick!). Then a big MMA-tournament in Atlantic City beckons both brothers with its 5 million dollar winner’s purse. Brendan can cover his bills and much more with THAT(did I mention he loses his teaching job after showing up for class with facial wounds from that first fight…what else?). And Tommy can give his buddy’s orphaned family a great life with 5 million big ones. So, Tommy and Brendan both show up for the tournament. Tommy remains mad at the world, so he’s not on speaking terms with his trainer father(how does that work?)OR his brother, while Brendan wants to reconcile with the brother and try to forgive the dad. You see where this tournament is headed, right? And poppa Nolte, all dried out and full of remorse, just wants both his boys back. And he constantly listens to an audiobook version of “Moby Dick”(OH…MY…GOD). Cue the falling-off-the-wagon drunken reconciliation scene(ATTENTION, OSCAR!). And not a dry eye in the house.          Kudos must be paid to these 3 guys for busting their asses to pull this shit off—they almost do. Many will claim that they DID make it work. Really, I wanted to love this. But, I would rather recommend “Body and Soul”(1947 or 1981), “Champion”(1949), “The Champ”(1931 or 1979), any “Rocky” movie, “Raging Bull”…even last year’s “The Fighter”. They are not all great films, but watch any and all of them and see how this formula has been worked to death. Gavin O’ Conner directs this with a high level of pizzazz, but he has to take some blame for the script too.      Grade:   C+


2 comments on “Warrior

  1. I was contemplating checking this one out. I think I will skip it. I prefer my Rocky movies to be of the actual Rocky variety.

  2. And as predicted, Nolte got his Oscar nom. This is a fine watch for home. I bet those script clunkers were even more glaring on the big screen. ML

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