Sunday, September 4, 2011
BROTHER VS. BROTHER VS. FATHER
Just got back from a sneak of Warrior – really strong movie with sensational fight sequences. It hits you where it counts emotionally, and the three lead performances (Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, and Nick Nolte) are all wonderful and rich. All three guys seem to occupy an equal amount of the film’s narrative, with Edgerton's character maybe serving as the primary focus, but what director Gavin O'Conner (Miracle, Pride & Glory) and his co-writers have done extremely well is present three different yet similar men all going through various states of emotional distress. Feeling like a 70's flick in many respects, Warrior has a terrific opening sequence, plunging you right into the familial dramatics that do most of the heavy story lifting, and has an electric final 10 minutes that really send you out of the theater on a high. Hardy is truly a force of nature in this film; anyone who saw Bronson knows that he's the real deal but here in Warrior he gets to play a sympathetic (yet extremely rough and troubled) character who you truly root for. Edgerton, so subtle and effective in both Animal Kingdom and The Square (two grade-A Australian crime films), is highly likable and very affecting as the older brother, trying to do right by his family, but also trying to satisfy an inner urge from within himself. And Nolte, as the ex-trainer/recovering alcoholic father to the two guys, just kills every scene he's in. Desperately trying to make up for lost time and attempting to set things right at all times, the pain and anguish that comes across in Nolte's performance always feels honest and real; expect a supporting actor nomination for his hotel-breakdown scene alone. Just the sound of Nolte’s weathered and gravelly voice at this point in his career indicates years of turbulent back story for his character. And then there are the fight sequences, which are expertly shot and cut at a breathless clip, always feeling 100% authentic (love how they never amped up the punching sound effects), and always easy to follow and understand on a spatial awareness level. I seem to be one of the only people who can tolerate (and outright enjoy) the "skaky-cam" cinematography aesthetic (think Bourne, The Kingdom, Green Zone, etc), but the classical style in which the action was shot in Warrior made the movie feel like a cousin to Rocky or older movies about charismatic fighters. A nicely proportioned amount of wide shots that show where the combatants are in the ring are included with the customary reliance on medium shots and close-ups; there are a few “in-your-face” punching shots that were reminiscent of the brutal camerawork in Ali. And without going full-blown “Hollywood-ending” at the finale, the movie comes to as sensible a conclusion as it could come too without feeling overly contrived. Bottom line – you’re happy with the way things turn out at the end of Warrior, which is great, because upon close inspection, the three lead characters still have a long way to go before all is right between them. There’s no showing off in O’Conner’s direction, and what I liked the most about the film is how he never rushed his story, and how he took the time to set up a compelling scenario with layered characters who you truly care about and who are all fighting for something important, before pummeling you in the ring with the bloody beat-downs. This is a kick-ass movie that most people are going to really enjoy, whether or not they’re into MMA/UFC (I’m not in the slightest), and I hope that despite the lack of familiar names (Hardy and Edgerton are terrific actors but nothing close to recognizable stars) that this film is a big hit.