Sunday, 5 February 2012
At the movies chez moi ...
Movies at mine on a Saturday night ... and this week’s offering was Warrior, starring Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte.
The blurb gives it thus ...“Ex-Marine Tommy Conlon (Hardy) returns home for the first time in fourteen years to enlist the help of his father (Nick Nolte) to train for SPARTA, the biggest winner-takes-all event in mixed martial arts history. A former wrestling prodigy, Tommy blazes a path toward the championship while his brother, Brendan (Edgerton), an ex-fighter-turned teacher, returns to the ring in a desperate bid to save his family from financial ruin. But when Brendan's unlikely, underdog rise sets him on a collision course with the unstoppable Tommy, the two brothers must finally confront each other and the forces that pulled them apart, facing off in the most soaring, soul stirring, and unforgettable climax that must be seen to be believed."
In some ways this is your typical combat-sport movie, with the troubled underdog overcoming all the odds, including an alcoholic father and empty pockets. What makes it rise above the crowd is the sterling performances of the 3 leads and the utterly convincing emotional sub-text that laces their every interaction.
Hardy is sensational, bringing his usual intensity to the role and appearing the embodiment of threat. The power of his movement in screen was such that I was left wondering how many extras he went through to film his fight scenes and how many broken bodies littered the local hospital ward. (Apparently, during filming he broke a toe, a finger and several ribs.)
You could sense that his hate was directed as much at himself as it was at the rest of the world. And he was saved from having a one-note performance in a scene where his father – having taken one emotional punch too many from his sons – turns back to the bottle. Where his sober apologies landed on deaf ears, his pained and broken drunken ones work their way through Hardy’s defences and the son offers his father some temporary release from his anguish.
When we first see Nolte, a line of dialogue from Hardy explains everything. Its the first time he has been in his father’s house for years. He notes that there isn’t a woman’s touch in the home and says with dry accusation, ‘Must be hard to find a woman who can take a punch these days.’
If Hardy was strong in this, Nolte’s performance had “award-winner” written all over it. Every line of dialogue was haunted with regret, every reaction to the (deserved) harsh words from his sons measured with a flinch. We knew he was the father from hell, but still he engaged my sympathy as struggled to gain acceptance from his sons and to find a way to engage their trust and a way back into their lives. The scene where he is denied even a moment with his grandchildren is particularly telling and one where you have to remind yourself that he is paying for past sins.
Pleasingly, MMA is given respect from the movie-makers and not treated as a brutal sideshow and this adds overall to the film’s appeal. There were brawls aplenty, but this was a film that had much more to offer than some effectively choreographed and thrilling fight scenes.
Sure the film has its weaknesses, mostly in the contrived and clichéd plot, but it overcomes these with top-drawer acting, strong editing and effective dialogue. All of which combined to deliver a powerful, emotional punch (pun intended). Don’t mind admitting that at several points throughout the film I had a huge lump in my throat.