Guest Post: Effin Guy Reviews Warrior

Say it Rah-shay By Sep 01, 2011 1 Comment

r’s note:
Effin Guy and I were invited by Allied Integrated Marketing to an advanced screening of Liongate’s soon to be released movie Warrior. I asked him to write a review of the movie because quite frankly I didn’t think I would be able to capture the raw emotional rollercoaster I felt as I watched this movie. Please note there are spoliers.
I am not getting any incentives from Lionsgate or Allied Integrated Marketing but I think this movie is not to be missed.
Warrior is the new movie by writer/director Gavin O’Connor (Miracle, Pride and Glory) that opens on September 9, 2011. Estranged brothers Brendan, played by Joel Edgerton (King Arthur), and Tommy, played by Tom Hardy (Inception), are the two main characters of the film. Neither brother is the proper protagonist of the movie because the narrative shifts from Brendan to Tommy and back again. Only the characters could consider the other the an antagonist, but audiences will not see them that way. In supporting roles, Nick Nolte plays Paddy Conlon, the recovering alcoholic father of the two boys, and Jennifer Morrison (House) plays Tess Conlon, the wife and high school sweetheart of older brother Brendan.

At first, the singular nature of the title may make one think that this is a Rocky-esque journey through the world of the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight game. I would argue that the title implies that each character is a warrior unto him or herself. Each brother has something dear to fight for. Family man and school teacher Brendan is fighting for his family and to stave off foreclosure. Loner and war veteran Tommy is fighting for the memories of the soldiers he fought with and for the families that they left behind. In fact, one can feel Paddy fighting his addiction every moment that he appears on screen. Tess is fighting to keep her family safe and secure including her husband who puts himself in harms way every time he steps into the cage. So, who is the Warrior referred to in the title: well, whoever the audience is watching at any given time. One of the great strengths of the film is that just about every character we meet is straining and trying to be better: a better father, a better fighter, a better person. The family Conlon is likable despite their flaws.

The trailers for this film miss the mark for their own movie. This film is more The Wrestler than Rocky. It is less about fighting and more about why these men are fighting – fighting in the cage as well as fighting each other while out of it. Poignant and powerful, Warrior gives the audience a reason to root for each brother all along the way towards the finals of the MMA tournament they enter. Fans of MMA will not be disappointed by this film. In fact the warrior spirit and driven nature of MMA competitors is captured well and presented positively throughout the story. The sheer brutality of MMA fighting is clearly and unapologetically shown without devolving into gore. Fighting in the cage is presented as a thinking athlete’s sport that is not for the weak of body, mind, or heart.
MMA and the 8-man Sparta tournament that the brothers Conlon enter is just the background and the back half of the film. The first half of the film is all about character. Paddy coming out of a church AA meeting is the first character we meet. Apropos, as the spectre of Paddy’s years as a physically and mentally abusive drunk continue to haunt the boys throughout their lives and throughout the film. There are no flashbacks to that time in the film as they are not necessary. Tommy is so explosively angry that you feel like you witnessed him taking a whipping. Brendan is so driven once he makes the choice to start fighting again that it is clear that he knows from obsession. Almost 3 years sober in the autumn of his life, Paddy is not the man he used to be, but his children cannot accept him as he is. Just because Paddy is ready and worthy of being forgiven, it does not mean that the victims of his abuse are ready or able to forgive.
The brothers have lived opposite lives as a direct reaction to the childhood that they endured. Brendan, a husband and father of two, has become to be the good parent that he never had. He is the kind man that actually enjoys his family and even allows one of his daughters to paint his face at her kiddie birthday party. One cannot imagine Paddy putting up with that or even being at a party so happy and serene. Drunken Paddy would be out of place, almost obscene at that party. Tommy is almost pure rage for the duration of the movie. His ire radiates off of him like heat – it is over-the-top and yet, relatively understandable. From his point of view, everyone he ever loved has died or abandoned him. His father and brother never came to find him after his mother left and took him in tow. His mother and his entire platoon died, leaving to fend for himself emotionally and practically. Unlike Brendan, Tommy does not have a support system. No wife in whom to confide the fear and emotions that he has. No daughter to paint his face. Tommy’s anger and solitude do not seem exaggerated, they seem inevitable.
Also inevitable is the brothers squaring off in the finals of the tournament that they enter. Some critics will say that this plot point was predictable. Well, of course it is. Brendan and Tommy fighting in the cage had to happen. Not for the sake of the movie, but for the sake of the characters. They need this in order to get on with their lives. Paddy trained Tommy to get ready for the tournament while Brendan enlisted the help of an old friend and trainer. In the finals, Brendan’s trainer is ringside coaching and advising. Tess is in the audience. As always, Brendan has support. Unfortunately, Tommy and Paddy have a spat that also seemed destined the night before the finals. As always, Tommy is alone. Their final battle is vicious and brutal. No different than the emotional battle waged their entire lives. Even when they did not see each other or speak to each other for years, the battle merely smoldered and simmered. It did not extinguish.
I will not spoil the ending and recount which of the brothers wins the fight. It almost does not matter. The final fight is filled with emotional and physical turns As an audience member, you will not have a favorite. You will want both of them to win. They both deserve it. They both need it. They have both been through enough. You want it to be over. You want the pain to stop. When one gets the other into a submission hold, he apologizes for the pain that he has inflicted on his brother. You know he is not talking about the cage fight. When the other finally and mercifully taps out, he does not slam his hand on the mat to signal the referee. Despite all of the emotion and brutality, he reaches up and gently pats on his brother’s shoulder. It is mostly “I forgive you” and just a little bit “I give up.” The fighting between the brothers is over – all of it, probably.
Together the brothers leave the cage. They do not wait for the announcers or the ceremony. They do not bow or wave. They leave arm in arm, step for step leaning on each other bewildering everyone looking on. This moment is not about winning and losing. It is not about Paddy or Tess or Brendan’s kids. This moment is about the fractured family taking it’s first step towards reunion. We are not seeing the moment the healing is complete when everything is okay. We are seeing the first moment that healing is even possible, the first time in years that they can be a family again. Paddy watches as his sons leave the arena. It is as close to the moment as he gets. A typical Hollywood ending would have Paddy join his sons in a cheesy group hug. He stays put knowing the moment is not about him.
Warrior is the most emotional film that I have seen this year, and thereby the best. The conflicts between the characters were honest and real for a family that has felt the scattering wounds caused by parental alcoholism. We meet the Conlons years into the process of rebuilding themselves, but we leave them at the beginning of the process of rebuilding their family.

I am mom, daughter, sister, yarn lover, word lover, crazy cat lady and library chick. Find me with book or with hook and a hot cuppa.

1 Comment

  1. Robin says:

    Having also seen and loved the movie, I just wanted to let you know this review is fantastic. Makes me want to see it all over again,

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