‘Warrior’ pulls its punches

Posted by · 10:57 pm · August 19th, 2011

I have to say, even though the pieces were there and I tend to respond overwhelmingly to father/son dramas, I was really surprised at how little I felt emotionally while watching Gavin O’Connor’s “Warrior.” And O’Connor really excels at this stuff, in general, for me. But it didn’t come together this time.

I feel pretty much alone here because the film has been affecting a number of critics and press members for the past month or so now and the room I was in tonight was all energy and tears, right there with it. But I don’t know, there is something in the fabric of the writing that kept me at arm’s length.

So Nick Nolte’s Paddy Conlon character was an asshole father to sons Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton). I know this because I’m being told over and over and over again. I know it, but I don’t feel it. Being presented with a thousand-day sober man looking to make amends really shoots that in the foot and you start wondering why his kids can’t just stop being pricks. Something, anything, that would have keyed us into their perspective would have gone a long way.

Then there is the molasses roll of the thing. There isn’t a real sense of pace at all, and the choice to structure things bottom heavy with an hour-long MMA tournament sequence just drags the movement down — especially considering so many of the actual fights are scripted without much drama.

Which brings me to the Tommy character. Don’t get me wrong. Hardy gives a wonderful, beautiful performance. He’s kind of forced to because he has to carry so much inference on his shoulders throughout a script that prefers to drop nuggets in a build toward what’s really driving him, and because he’s built up to be a beast of a fighter so much that he probably read as two-dimensional on the page. But it felt a bit cheap to make him into a ferocious one-punch dropper every step of the way, and whatever is eating at him is so internalized it becomes a vehicle for Hardy’s talent more than an element that actually helps the story move forward.

(Also, just as someone aware of who he is, the stunt casting of Kurt Angle was somewhat distracting. But I don’t imagine this will be a problem for most of the film’s audience.)

All that said, people are really responding to this film. I expect, at the very least, a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Nolte. Hardy could make some waves in the race, but I don’t see him making it into the field unless the film itself takes off across the board, which it could, but I’m skeptical.

I really wanted to be on board here. But it just didn’t click. Not even a moment of eye moisture. Can’t win ’em all, I guess.

[Photo: Lionsgate]

→ 25 Comments Tags: , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily · Reviews

25 responses so far

  • 1 8-19-2011 at 11:01 pm

    Dana Jones said...

    Oh gosh, I was tearing up the first time I saw the trailer so I bet I will be a mess at the end of the film. I’m surprised you found ‘The Help’ to be more of a tearjerker than this film but I guess I have to wait and see ‘Warrior’ before I make any judgments (in fairness, I teared up during ‘The Help’ too).

  • 2 8-19-2011 at 11:04 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Yeah, I definitely would have expected the reverse.

  • 3 8-20-2011 at 12:02 am

    Michael. said...

    What did you think of Edgerton’s performance?

  • 4 8-20-2011 at 12:38 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    He’s sufficient but I couldn’t drum up the words to talk about him, I guess. Okay, “sufficient” sounds bad. He’s got a different rhythm to play and he handles it well enough, but he just doesn’t have the opportunities Nolte and Hardy have, given the role.

  • 5 8-20-2011 at 2:18 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I’m surprised and pleased to hear this is pushing emotional buttons for people, and isn’t wholly lurid trash — I wonder if they’re having any regrets over the poster, which seems to advertise the film as an Old Compton Street club night.

  • 6 8-20-2011 at 2:24 am

    Kokolo said...

    Glad to hear about Nolte.

  • 7 8-20-2011 at 5:39 am

    JJ1 said...

    “I know this because I’m being told over and over and over again. I know it, but I don’t feel it.”

    I think that’s just the worst feeling; when you’re watching a film that you’re expecting to be moved by, and others are moved by, and you just witness it and don’t feel anything. I always get sad when that happens.

    Kris, would you say that this is a solid film that you just didn’t react to, personally (happens with me so much). Or do you think it’s just an average film?

  • 8 8-20-2011 at 7:29 am

    The Other James D. said...

    I’m pleasantly surprised that this film is turning out to be more than I expected. Usually the September dump is a landfill of good casts working with mediocre screenplays, and with a few exceptions, even the better works get overshadowed during awards season. (Obviously, The Queen, among others, premiered at the end of the month and, um, did quite well. <:o)) I've been interested in it for over a year now, however. I assumed that it would just be one of those aforementioned films that even if I enjoyed, wouldn't fare into Oscar season much. Guess I'll have to bump Nolte up on my predix list now though. Being a vet's category and all, the eventual showdown there should be interesting….

  • 9 8-20-2011 at 9:35 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Kind of a tough question to answer, JJ. I think it has all the components to be a solid film, but it seems confused by what it wants to be. So while I don’t want to damn it as mediocre given its goals, I also can’t say that it succeeds enough to elevate it.

  • 10 8-20-2011 at 9:43 am

    JJ1 said...


  • 11 8-20-2011 at 10:05 am

    Matthew Starr said...

    I liked the work of all three men in Warrior but yes Nolte especially was great. I remember after it was over thinking what a contentious year it may be for supporting actor with Nolte, Pitt, Branagh, Brooks, Plummer, Hoffman etc..

    I also agree about the fights which for me was the weakest part of the film and in a film about fighting that is a major problem. There was no drama at all, you knew who was going to fight who and who was going to win. Hell even in the trailer they tell you the brothers end up fighting in the end.

  • 12 8-20-2011 at 10:23 am

    JJ1 said...

    While I recognize that this may be a decent film, and the performances look solid … I hate to compare to ‘The Fighter’, but that only came out last year, and I was so emotionally involved in that film. I just have iffy feelings approaching ‘Warrior’ next month. But maybe it’ll surprise me.

  • 13 8-20-2011 at 10:24 am

    JJ1 said...

    And it looks predictable.

  • 14 8-20-2011 at 10:49 am

    Chris138 said...

    I’ve heard from some other people who have seen the movie that Nolte could be in contention for a supporting actor nod, so it’s very intriguing to hear you echo the same sentiment. Obviously I’d have to see the film and judge myself, but if the buzz is true then I’m glad to hear it.

  • 15 8-20-2011 at 11:00 am

    THE Diego Ortiz said...

    Kurt Angle is in this movie?
    Is that true?
    Is that damn true?

  • 16 8-20-2011 at 11:02 am

    /3rtfu11 said...

    “‘Warrior’ pulls its punches”

    This surprises you why? A PG-13 tough guy movie pulls its punches…the hell you say!

  • 17 8-20-2011 at 11:40 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    The rating has nothing to do with what I’m talking about. The point I’m making with the headline is that there is emotional depth that I think it misses.

  • 18 8-20-2011 at 3:19 pm

    Andrea said...

    Who cares about the performances or if it made you feel anything?


  • 19 8-20-2011 at 3:38 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I’m guessing it’ll make you “feel” something, then.

  • 20 8-20-2011 at 5:48 pm

    Awesome said...

    I didn’t really know what to expect going into the film. It had the cast and crew to be a good movie, but I was worried it was going to be very cliche. But I found it to be great. I knew it was great when during the fight scenes at the end, people in the audience were cheering and clapping as if it was a real fight. For the story that it had, it was the least cliche it could have been. I look at it as a 2011 version of ‘The Fighter’. The performances may not have been as great, but they were still great, especially, like you said, by Nolte, who the whole time I was watching I kept thinking “Oscar…” I do hope this gets some love from the Academy. I enjoyed O’Connor’s previous work with “Pride and Glory” and “Miracle”, so I hope he starts getting more recognition. This is just an overall great movie, one of my favorites of the year.

  • 21 8-21-2011 at 2:16 am

    tony rock said...

    As a huge MMA fan I wish they had found some way to make them UFC fighters in the movie, since the tournament-based plot feels dated to me (the tournament format is dying).

  • 22 8-21-2011 at 7:18 pm

    Maxim said...

    The Wrestler, The Fighter, Warrior… I cannot wait for the inevitable the Grappler, The Sumo, and the Thumb Wrestler.

  • 23 8-22-2011 at 11:46 pm

    Dana Jones said...

    I’m reading through some of the other early reviews and I’m quite pleased with what I’ve read so far. Looks like a solid film for everyone involved and I hope Lionsgate comes out with a strong, effective marketing campaign. Just on box office prospects, I wonder why the commercial (I’ve only seen one) isn’t catering more towards Tom Hardy. He’s the “it” guy of the moment and I know he’s a big hit with the ladies. Edgerton is equally appealing, but he isn’t as visible in America just yet, which is a huge shame. “The Help” was a great example of this. The commercials sold Stone as the lead but it was really Davis’ film.

  • 24 12-22-2011 at 9:53 pm

    Phil Sykes said...

    This is the best movie I have seen all year, hands down! I have watched it 3 times now and it gets better each time. The story is very solid and heartwrenching in so many ways. Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton are so believable in this. My wife was convinced they were real MMA fighters because there was no way actors could be that believable.
    Its filmed really uniquely and the fight scenes are like you are in the cage with them. I know sports movies don’t win oscars typically but this should win best picture, director, story and actor (Tom Hardy).