Gavin O’Connor’s (Miracle Pride and Glory) stirring new drama Warrior is an underdog tale set in the nascent sport of Mixed Martial Arts fighting. In its relatively short life MMA has yet to inspire much quality cinema of note. It now has its Rocky.
Warrior’s twist on the traditional underdog formula is to provide us with dual protagonists: the fightin’ Conlon brothers Brendan (Joel Edgerton) and Tommy (Tom Hardy). Neither have spoken to each other since the dissolution of the parents’ marriage fourteen years earlier. Both of late have fallen on hard times. Tommy is an Iraq war veteran who has turned to pills and booze since returning from abroad; Brendan is a high school science teacher and devoted family man victimized by the financial crisis. Circumstances compel them both to seek salvation in the fight game.
Conveniently enough the opportunity of a lifetime arrives in the form of Sparta a brand-new winner-take-all MMA tournament that awards its champion a cool $5 million – more than enough for Brendan to save his house from foreclosure or for Tommy to make good on his pledge to provide for the family of a friend killed in Iraq. By this point we know for certain that fate has determined Brendan and Tommy will meet in the final and we know for certain how utterly ridiculous this scenario is. And yet we accept it because by this point Warrior already has us in its corner.
The origins of the brothers’ enmity are ultimately traced to their father Paddy (Nick Nolte) a monstrous alcoholic whose abusiveness led their mother and Tommy to flee fourteen years prior. Brendan stayed behind and Tommy never forgave him for it. When we see Paddy he’s broken-down husk of a man God-fearing and 1000 days sober his face creased with shame and regret. Neither son can stand the sight of their old man but Tommy in need of someone to train him for the tournament reluctantly enlists his father’s help. Paddy eyeing a last chance at redemption enthusiastically complies.
Cue the training montage. A fighter rising from obscurity to the upper echelons in his sport within a matter of weeks is hard to swallow; when two fighters do it it’s a borderline insult to the sport. MMA aficionados might blanch at watching Tommy and Brendan gain one unlikely win after another; more likely they’ll be too absorbed by the action to care. It helps that Hardy and Edgerton both look the part and are both skilled enough at their craft to lend the film’s many brutal fight scenes a distinct realism. It helps even more that the story and the actors' stellar performances have us firmly aligned with their goals.
O’Conner a veteran of the genre deploys the underdog tropes at his disposal freely but assiduously crafting a tale that is unabashedly far-fetched but grounded in characters who are intensely appealing and who feel authentic. The storytelling is clumsy at times – that Nolte’s character listens to a book-on-tape of Moby Dick throughout the film feels particularly heavy-handed – but Warrior wisely steers clear of bombastic speeches or cloying sentiment.
Warrior’s climactic final fight in which the estranged brothers at last meet in the ring is both gut- and heart-wrenching. When the film’s suitably happy ending does eventually arrive the film gives way ever-so-briefly to hokeyness. But after what these kids have gone through you can forgive them for getting a little emotional.
December 02, 2002 12:39pm EST
Gillian Anderson, who played Agent Scully in the cult sci-fi series The X-Files, is getting a beating from critics for her debut performance on the London stage in Michael Weller's play What the Night Is For. In fact, it is being tagged the biggest roasting since Madonna's first curtain call in May in Up for Grabs, according to Reuters. "Sorry Scully, but you have lost your X-appeal," The Daily Mail said of Anderson's performance. "She is woefully uninvolving," said the Financial Times. "Does Anderson's voice have no capacity for heart-catching uplift, no sudden changes of volume?" it asked. Anderson is one of many Hollywood celebs accepting stage roles in Britain to boost their acting credentials, including Nicole Kidman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon and Woody Harrelson.
Former Beatle George Harrison left more than $153 million in his will after his death from cancer in November 2001, Reuters reports. Details of the will were made public Friday before an all-star benefit concert in London, but court officials would not confirm local media reports that the money would be divided between Harrison's wife, Olivia, family members and charities.
Courteney Cox's decision to take her maiden name again spurred rumors that her marriage to David Arquette might be in trouble, but not so, according to the Friends star. In the December issue of InStyle magazine, Cox says she started going by her maiden name out of her respect for her father, Richard Cox, who died of cancer last year.
Rosie O'Donnell's longtime companion Kelli Carpenter gave birth Friday to her first child, Vivienne Rose, at an undisclosed New York hospital, The Associated Press reports. A spokeswoman for O'Donnell would not say whether the former talk show host was formally adopting the baby. O'Donnell has three adopted children, Parker, 7, Chelsea, 5, and Blake, 3.
MGM and Rush Hour producer Arthur Sarkissian are set to remake the 1958 thriller The Defiant Ones, which starred Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier as escaped convicts bound at the wrist. According to Variety, Sarkissian signed a first-look deal with the Lion and Defiant is likely to be their first joint project.
The Osbournes season premiere on MTV Tuesday attracted 6.64 million viewers, placing first in its 10:30 p.m. slot among adults 18-34, Variety reports. Although the show reached almost 8 million viewers at its peak during the first season, the numbers remain impressive considering the episode was up against original programming on ABC, CBS and NBC.
In a one-hour special, Mariah Carey: Shining Through the Rain, airing Tuesday at 9 p.m. on MTV, the 32-year-old songstress wonders why such a big deal was made over her striptease on MTV's Total Request Live in July 2001--less than a week before she checked into a hospital for an emotional breakdown. "The drama, the saga of TRL," Carey says. "It's TRL, I thought you were supposed to feel at home and do stupid stuff."
Oasis singer Liam Gallagher lost several teeth in a barroom brawl with five Italians at the Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich, Germany, Reuters reports. According to German police, Gallagher also kicked an officer in the ribs when he was detained. With Gallagher spending much of the day in a dentist's chair, the group canceled Monday night's concert in Hamburg. The band's Web site said Gallagher and two other band members were innocent victims of an unprovoked attack by a group of youths. Brother Noel Gallagher was not involved in the melee.
Folk duo Simon & Garfunkel and salsa king Tito Puente are among the five artists to be honored with lifetime achievement awards for 2003 from the Recording Academy on Wednesday, Variety reports. Others include blues singer Etta James, balladeer Johnny Mathis and bandleader Glen Miller. The honors will be formally acknowledged at the 45th annual Grammy Awards in New York on Feb. 23.