by Doug Duke
KCET’s Fall Cinema Series kicked off with WARRIOR at the Aero on August 30th, 2011 and it’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year! Already a fan of its director Gavin O’ Connor (PRIDE AND GLORY), I figured I was in for an intimate multi- character piece and I was not let down. I have no qualms admitting I’ve paid no attention or have never really been interested in MMA Fighting. That’s changed now.
The story, written by Mr. O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis (who were both on hand for an great Q&A) and Cliff Dorfman, is maybe something you’ve already heard of or seen, but where this film takes you emotionally shows you what a great filmmaker Gavin O’ Connor is. It’s one of those underdog stories that you can’t help but get behind.
Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and especially Nick Nolte will take your breath away. The cast is superb, the cinematography, action, direction and music is all top notch. Anything Hardy touches, he seems to bring his amazing presence to the screen and he completely nails every moment. Same goes for Joel Edgerton; his performance is a bit quieter but filled with so much HEART. Do I really even need to explain how good Nick Nolte is? Last time I can remember seeing him was in TROPIC THUNDER, which I loved and loved him in it, but this is one of those Nolte performances where you say, “Well, he better win!”
I got to speak to both Gavin and Anthony at the end of the Q&A and Anthony had the spirit of a fan. He basically geeked out about how Nolte is an old pro. He told me a great piece of knowledge about Mr. Nick Nolte. He’s not like these new guys, who say their lines they way they feel like saying them. That’s not the case for Nolte, he says every word that was written! I couldn’t help but just smile after hearing something like that. That’s a special thing. That’s why we all want to do this, moments like that.
The movie has already opened wide and it didn’t have great box office numbers, which is sad, but this is a film that lives through time. Maybe people are turned off by the marketing or ads; “Oh, two brothers meet up in an MMA tournament?” How Gavin gets us there is what’s important and it’s not what you expect.
This isn’t just a fighting movie, it’s a character study and a great one at that. People will catch it on DVD, Netflix. Hell, you should catch it at ArcLight Cinemas – Hollywood or Pacific Sherman Oaks 5. I suggest you do because it’s an amazing theatre experience. You’ll seriously be on the edge of your seat, maybe fist pumping, who knows? If you want to see a great movie with great performances get off your ass and go see WARRIOR!
Thank you to KCET, the Johnny Mercer Foundation, the American Cinematheque/Aero Theatre, Gavin O’ Connor, Anthony Tambakis and of course our moderator Pete Hammond!