Warrior. The most basic of views would have one believing this is a movie about MMA. To a certain extent, that is correct. However, this film is about much more. At the very core it is a film of redemption. A father's attempt at rebuilding his fractured relationship with his boys, a soldier's responsibility to helping out the wife of a friend, and a husband's attempt at continuing to provide for his wife and kids.
Nick Nolte portrays an alcoholic father whose boozing has caused his sons (Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy) to abandon him in life. Joel Edgerton fills the role of a cage fighter turned physics teacher who needs to get back into fighting to keep his home. Tom Hardy is the returning marine who comes home with a chip on his shoulder and a need to medicate to forget his past. These three men are intertwined in a way that is only fully understood at the climax.
Going into the theater I had my doubts about this movie. I've seen every attempt at creating a good MMA film and all of them have fallen flat. "Never Back Down" which tried to showcase the underground fight leagues while also reaching the teen movie crowd; "Fighting" which while not explicitly an MMA movie, still tried to capture that audience; "Red Belt" came closest but still didn't fully commit to the process. "Warrior" opted to go all in on the concept and it showed. They used NJ commissioner Nick Lembo as a consultant to maintain the realism of the fights and the Tapout crew provided authenticity as well.
Watching the film in a theater full of non-MMA fans was a bit of a trip. While I was at the edge of my seat the whole time, fully immersed in the story and the fights, they were lounging back taking notes as movie reviewers often do. The film hits all the correct emotional chords you experience when watching fights. There is a sort of high you get from watching MMA and this movie provides that in droves. It is a story driven movie that allows the cast to do what they do best by providing a perfect build up to the ending.
There are some parts where belief needs to be suspended such as the power bomb performed by Koba but even with the ridiculousness, the movie is still the best MMA movie ever made and set the bar so high that the possibilities of a better one will be incredibly difficult.
It would be easy to compare it to movies such as The Fighter but this isn't trying to be a biopic. The director and screen writer set out to create an authentic MMA movie and they did just that. The fact that there is some relatable characters is merely coincidental. Sure it's possible to draw comparisons to Rich Franklin for Joel Edgertons character and the undefeated Russian named Koba surely can be replaced with Fedor Emelianenko, but the truth is that this movie strives to be more than just another sports movie.
Warrior comes out on September 9, 2011. I'd suggest you go see it. It's my pick for sports movie of the year.