I’m a fan of the Rocky films.
I’m also a fan of Professional Wrestling.
I’m not all that much interested in MMA.
“How can you like wrestling but not MMA? Wrestling is fake!!”, I hear you say(and have heard people say intermittently since 1991).
Well, the film Warrior is the perfect example of why that is.
What’s it About?
Two long-separated brothers take different paths to enter a 16 man, two-night MMA elimination tournament and inevitably face off in the final. One brother (Tom Hardy) is an emotionally damaged ex-marine while the other (Joel Edgerton) is a seemingly over the hill former UFC fighter who has been living for the past few years as a school teacher in suburbia, but faces bankruptcy because he’s had to pay out a lot of money to pay for his daughter’s heart operation (and that’s why the NHS is a better system).
Both men have problems with their alcoholic-in-recovery father (Nick Nolte) who also happens to be a good MMA trainer.
Thoughts – This Is Why Wrestling is Pre-Determined
So why is Warrior the perfect example of why I like the pre-determined sport of wrestling as opposed to the ‘real’ sport of MMA?
The answer is simple – MMA could never be as exciting as this film makes out in a million years. The reason wrestling is the way it is, is because by pre-determining what happens in the ring – the winners, the losers, the match lengths, who faces who etc – you can in theory produce the most entertaining spectacle possible (I say ‘in theory’ because the WWE seems intent on disproving that notion most of the time these days). In the days before wrestling was pre-determined, wrestlers would just grapple on the mat for hours on end. Where’s the entertainment in that?
MMA is a bit different if course, in that the fights can either be wildly entertaining with two men going at it like hammer-and-tongs (not like that you smutty people) or it can be very dull with two men lying on top of each other barely moving (again…steady!).
But by not fixing the outcomes, the opportunity to tell a brilliant story like Warrior goes out of the window. I would pay my ‘hard-earned cash’ to see a tournament pan out the way it did in the film, with each fight finishing in the most perfect way imaginable and three matches (the two semi finals and the final itself) being so perfectly set up that you couldn’t book it any better, but because it’s not pre-determined you’d be leaving it completely up to chance to get those storybook matches.
It’s the same reason that proper boxing is nowhere near as entertaining as the Rocky films make out.
And that’s why when it’s done well, pro wrestling is the more enthralling watch.
All the storytelling and perfect scenarios in the world would count for nothing if the film didn’t deliver in terms of the actual fights that go on, but thankfully it delivers in abundance. The fights look very hard hitting and completely believable, the actors they’ve got playing the fighters absolutely look the part (and yet it’s interesting that the relatively ‘slight’ wrestler Kurt Angle looks like a m0nster in his role as the Russian fighter ‘Koba’) and crucially the direction of the fights is top notch.
Even though it was a film and even though the results of every match bar the final were known beforehand (for which you can blame the trailer of the film which gives away what the final was) the fights still managed to draw you in and make you believe in what was happening. I defy anyone not to cheer internally when Brendan Connolly wins the matches leading up to the final.
As a side note, I’d say that there’s no chance that some of the guys in this film have not been ‘on the juice’ to enhance their physiques. One of the actors (I won’t say who – I’ll just leave it for you to work out) clearly didn’t achieve his look through purely natural means.
The Story and the Acting
Away from the actual tournament, this film has a very strong and believable plot. All the main characters have depth to them and all the different strands of the story come together well. You can believe in both brothers and how and why they come to fight, as well as the reasons for the personal animosity between them.
Even the minor characters – like the headmaster at the school – are done well.
And the acting is top notch as well. Nick Nolte is on fine form as the father of the two men – certainly it’s the best performance I’ve seen him put in, while Jennifer Morrison both looks and acts far better than the dreadful Talia Shire of the Rocky films.
The one thing that I’m not sure about was how we were supposed to react to Tom Hardy’s character, Tommy. I suspect that we were supposed to be split between which brother we wanted to win – Tommy or Brendan – but since Tommy had acted like a prick for most of the film, I was firmly behind Brendan all the way.
So who won? I can’t tell you that! But I can tell you that when the film ends (almost straight after the fight), I could happily have watched another 45 minutes just to see the fallout.
Should You Go and See Warrior?
I’m sure most blokes around my age understand the Rocky IV effect. Rocky IV has a pretty loose plot, but it has tremendous fight scenes, great training montages and a kick-ass soundtrack. In the absence of a plot it still manages to be one of our favourite films.
Imagine if Rocky IV actually had a plot, and a damn good one at that? Imagine if Rocky IV was acted well?
Then you’ve got Warrior. The only thing is lacks compared to Rocky IV is the soundtrack, but apart from that, it’s amazing.
Despite being almost two and a half hours long, the film flew by. At no point did I check my watch or think the film was dragging.
I would go out on a limb and say this is the best film I’ve seen this year, and I’d happily go back and watch it again tomorrow.
Very highly recommended.