Warrior, the mixed martial-arts drama, came to Netflix instant, and I watched it, and here are two reviews of it: the first short and spoiler-free, the second, a long floppy flood of finger-farts containing all of the spoilers for absolutely everything in the movie. First review:
While it veers into melodrama and hits a number of incredibly familiar sports-movie beats, strong acting performances and exciting, believable fight scenes turn Warrior into a decent sports film. I hope you noticed my clever wordplay back there. Because it’s a fighting film, and I said hit and beats.
Okay, onto the SPOILERY PLOT SUMMARY OF SPOILERS.
Got a sports film to make? Okay, let’s talk ingredients. You need an underdog, obvs, a guy down on his luck, needing money for something important, who has no chance of winning, but he’s a good guy. That’s Joel Edgerton, who kind of looks like Conan O’Brien’s tougher older brother, the one who smoked and drove a Mustang and dropped out of high school in 11th grade. Edgerton plays a physics teacher, the kind every student loves and respects, and he needs money to make his house payments. So, he decides to return to his roots of being a mixed martial artist, which he is good at because he knows how to grab a guy’s arm and hold it in a way that makes them want to stop punching him (NOTE: THIS WILL COME IN IMPORTANT LATER).
You also need a bad guy, a big hulking brute, and that need is met by basically everyone else in the entire film, because this is an MMA movie and everyone is huge and muscly. Tom Hardy is the main one, and he is big and hulking and a brute, and he’s been gone for years, and now he is back, and he is Joel Edgerton’s brother.
You need an aging, crusty trainer of some sort, like Nick Nolte, and you need an absentee father, also Nick Nolte, and someone should have a drinking problem, Nick Nolte again. The brothers hate each other because, something something childhood, something something WE’RE NOT BROTHERS something something YOU JUST DON’T GET IT, DO YOU something etc. Also, they both hate Nick Nolte, but Nick Nolte wants to make amends, something something I’VE NEVER SEEN MY GRANDCHILDREN something something and his eyes fill with tears a lot.
You need a concerned wife who doesn’t want Joel Edgerton to fight, and gets mad when he does, and she does not represent the views of anyone in the audience because, come on, we want to see giant dudes punching each other to death already. That’s Jennifer Morrison, being concerned and, you know, pretty naggy about shit, because that’s all they give women to do in sports films about men.
Finally, you need a big sporting thing, in this case, a sixteen man MMA tournament with a prize of five million dollars (seems kind of like a big purse for a tourney that will take a physics teacher, but whatever). Also, Tom Hardy was a Marine but he doesn’t talk about it, so you think maybe he was a bad Marine, but then it turns out he saved a bunch of guys from drowning so he was a good Marine, but then it turns out he was only there to save guys from drowning because he went AWOL, so he’s a bad Marine again, sort of, but then he went AWOL because he was the sole survivor of a friendly-fire shooting that killed his friend and wants to donate his winnings to his friend’s widow, so he is a good Marine, finally. He is also super scary and angry because of all those things that happened and he just beats the shit out of everyone in the tournament and seriously, he is scarier in this movie than he was as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. I don’t know what you call those muscles that connect your shoulders to your neck but his are big enough to fling his head into space, where it would headbutt the moon to death.
Meanwhile, Joel Edgerton is also doing well in the tourney. He is getting the shit punched out of him by guys who are way way bigger than he is, but he is good at grabbing a guy’s arm and holding it in a way that will make them stop punching him (REMEMBER?), and he does this and wins a lot, and the announcers of the tournament are first like THIS GUY IS GOING TO GET KILLED but are later more like THIS GUY IS PRETTY GOOD.
And then it’s the final match, between the two brothers! And Tom Hardy just beats the living crap out of Joel Edgerton for four rounds, BUT THEN!!! Joel Edgerton does the arm-grab he does on everyone, and Tom Hardy is a serious badass and will not tap out (that means quit), so Joel Edgerton breaks Tom Hardy’s arm!
The final round begins, and Tom Hardy is coming out to fight, but his arm is broken, so Joel Edgerton is just punching him in the face at will, but Tom Hardy won’t quit, and Joel Edgerton is like, jeez, I can’t just keep punching my own brother in the face when he is in pain like this, so he tells Tom Hardy to quit, and all the wonderful violence that has been happening is now horribly sad, and we want to just hug Tom Hardy even though he is a giant hulked-out scary muscle-monster, because he is hurting.
So, you’re probably sitting there thinking, well, this could go a few ways. Maybe the ref stops the fight and Joel Edgerton is declared the winner. Maybe they hug. Maybe the round ends and Joel Edgerton is declared the winner and then they hug. Maybe they hug, the round ends, and Tom Hardy is declared the winner. Maybe Tom Hardy, his arm broken, slumps down to the mat and taps out. Maybe Joel Edgerton slumps down to the mat and taps out so he can let his brother can win. Maybe it’s a tie and they both win!
No. No to all of those things I just pretended you were thinking. None of them are right, dummy! What ACTUALLY HAPPENS is Joel Edgerton KICKS HIS BROTHER IN THE FUCKING HEAD and then PROCEEDS TO STRANGLE HIM TO ALMOST DEATH.
Holy shit. It’s, like, WHAT. DID THAT JUST HAPPEN. Did he really, in the midst of seeing his brother’s suffering, not just his physical suffering but his real spiritual suffering, just haul off and foot-kick him in the head-skull as hard as he could? YES. THAT HAPPENED. And, shit, good job, movie, for doing that, because having your incredibly good guy character kick your other incredibly good guy character who is also his own brother in the face is, well, pretty awesome of you.
So, while he’s lovingly strangling his brother to death, Joel Edgerton tells Tom Hardy he loves him, and Tom Hardy taps out, and then they limp out of the ring together, two huge hulking brutal dudes hurt and limping and clinging to each other because, love. And Nick Nolte is all, yeah, those are my boys, and also Joel Edgerton’s wife had stopped nagging him and was at the fight cheering, so, essentially, every sports movie you’ve ever seen, but still, pretty effective, and somewhat moving, and everyone did a good job acting and fighting, plus the awesome surprising moment of someone kicking someone right in the face in the most loving way you can ever kick someone right in the face.