Midway through Warrior, I thought, “This is what The Coens once called ‘a Wally Berry wrestling movie,'” but it was a really good Wally Berry wrestling movie.
But by the time the film was over, it was apparent that this is the Wally Berry wrestling movie that Barton Finke wished he could write.
I fear that I might damn this movie with too much praise. Rocky meets On The Waterfront.
Putting aside the magic of each fight being done in such a stylized way in Raging Bull, this is easily the best photographed fight movie I have ever seen… shot by a first time lead Cinematographer.
With great credit to the director, the screenwriters, and the DP, I have never seen any up-close action film – especially one in a sport I know nothing about – that was so clear and easy to follow, scene after scene after scene. I was never confused by any of the action. I knew where the characters were and what they we doing, how they were trying to adjust in the moment, etc. Amazing.
Oscar nominations for Nick Nolte, who could win a lifetime achievement Oscar for this great performance, and probably Tom Hardy, who has the more Brando-esque brother role. But this could become an across-the-board nominee. Picture, director, cinematographer, editor, sound, score, and at least two acting nods, Joel Edgerton certainly another possibility. Hardy is all the things many of us felt he was. Nolte is 100% on his game. In a weird way, this role is a variation of his role in Ang Lee’s Hulk… except this one effectively does all the things that one didn’t quite make work. Edgerton has the hardest role, as the sanest family member.
This should be a hugely commercial movie, given the genre, grossing in the mid-100s, I believe women will be on the edge of their chairs along with the men. If that happens… and critics embrace what could have been a simple genre picture… Best Picture is not an unrealistic goal.
Gavin O’Connor has made himself, with his collaborators, to fighting what Chris Nolan is to superhero movies. Nolan brought an intellectual rigor and darkness to Batman. O’Connor brings arthouse intimacy to a movie that also works exceptionally well as a genre experience.
Simply, Warrior is the movie that The Fighter wasn’t. It’s a great fight movie, even if you, like me, could not care less about Mixed Martial Arts. But it also plumbs the emotional depth in a way that The Fighter really focused on doing, but never quite did. The characters were too big and there just wasn’t room for the intimate moments, especially with Dicky, who was never really accessible enough to get to that level of intimacy. Warrior would rather say nothing than show off. And I felt it. Hard.
By the end of the film, you reach the inevitable action film culmination… though the writers rather brilliantly take the whole thing somewhere utterly unpredictable that also makes completely sense for all the characters. But beyond the genre, the family story comes together completely at the same time. These three men are completely a reflection of their histories and they have arrived at their destiny.
I expect some critics to bridle against the emotion of the film. But that will be their loss.
I’m going to stop now. I’ll be revisiting the film again… and surely, again. Blown away. It was, in many ways, like Soderbergh and Sheridan combined at their best. And I didn’t see it coming from Gavin O’Connor.
God, it’s great to fall in love with a movie!