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Still shot from the movie: Warrior.

Warrior

Strapped for cash, former marine Tommy Riordan (Tom Hardy) decides to enter a mixed martial arts tournament. His best chance for a win is a good coach, so he turns to his father (Nick Nolte), even though he has an alcoholic past. And the competition will also put him in the ring with his estranged brother (Joel Edgerton).

Overall Grade: C+
Violence: D+
Sexual Content: B
Language: C-
Drugs/Alcohol: C-
Release Date: 09 Sep 2011
Run Time: 141
MPAA Rating: PG-13

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In-Depth Review

After watching Warrior, I know, as Oprah would say, two things for sure. First there is nothing I like about a sport that has to be fought in a cage, that begins each round with the cry "go to war" and that seemingly appeals to the very basest of human instincts. (I say human because animals don’t pulverize one another for the sake of entertainment.)

The second is that people can change—repent, in the religious vernacular. But a change of heart doesn’t mean the consequences for past decisions and actions are negated. Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte), a reformed drunkard, has found God. However, his family is still lost. The memories of abuse, neglect and inebriated outbursts haven’t vanished from his sons’ minds. And their abrasive reactions to their sober father are understandable though dispiriting. (Aging tough guy Nick Nolte makes this more poignant by capturing the fragility and remorse of an old man who wants to atone for his mistakes but doesn’t know how.)

Yet chokeholds, knockouts and body slams aside, this story has far more depth than the title suggests. This is a tale of damaged goods. Not only bruised cheeks and broken bones but characters so beaten down by life that fighting with their fists seems the only way to redeem themselves. And while we don’t see the internal struggles of every character, we see the human side of several of them. (The biggest exception is Koba, played by Kurt Angle, a famed Russian fighter who is as stereotypical as the Soviet boxer in Rocky IV. All he does is grunt, flex his oversized muscles and pummel his opponent in the head.)

Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton), a former fighter, is one who hopes to spar for the big prize money in the upcoming world-class competition. He left the ring several years ago to raise two daughters with his wife Tess (Jennifer Morrison). Now financial setbacks plague the high school physics teacher. To stretch the household budget, Tess works night shifts as a waitress and Brendan applies for a second job as a bar bouncer. But the $9.00 an hour salary doesn’t do much to cover the huge debts the family incurred over their youngest girl’s heart problems. Neither does it appease their banker (Noah Emmerich) who is drawing up the papers for foreclosure on their home.

Ex-Marine Tom Riordan (Tom Hardy) is in training for the event as well. He comes to the gym with a chip on this shoulder the size of an army tank. He’s glowering, volatile and addicted to prescription drugs that he washes down with alcohol. He also harbors a secret from his past. But all that rage bottled up inside makes him a threatening opponent when he lumbers onto the mat.

Many viewers will come to Warrior for the mixed martial arts scenes, and there are plenty of brutal encounters reminiscent of Roman gladiators who fought to the death. Others will be drawn to the story of wounded lives and fractured families. While it is difficult to recommend a film glorifying actions that would be condemned on the street, Warrior does offer adults and the oldest of teens a sobering look at the aftermath of poor personal decisions.

Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...

Violence: Characters engage in tough training schedules. Frequent fighting scenes include brutal hits, body slams, head battering and cheap shots. Characters are knocked out and choked until unconscious. Characters talk about a man’s abusive behavior in the past and the painful death of a woman. A man lies to his wife. Soldiers are shown under fire in Iraq. One man deserts his unit. A soldier’s death is discussed. Characters posture and exchange smack talk.

Sexual Content: A couple exchange mild sexual comments. They later kiss. A woman wears only a t-shirt and panties. Other characters are seen in tight-fitting or skimpy outfits. A fight is set up in the parking lot of a strip bar.

Language: The script contains crude anatomical terms, frequent vulgarities, scatological slang, profanities and an extreme sexual expletive.

Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters light cigarettes outside an AA meeting. Smoking is portrayed frequently. A man takes prescription pills with alcohol. Characters discuss a man’s past alcohol addictions. A man drinks while watching a fight. Another character goes on a drinking binge and is shown in an inebriated state.

Other: Many characters are heavily tattooed including one man who has his entire head and face inked. A bank manager refuses to accept any responsibility for his part in a family’s debt problems. Characters post pictures of fights on the Internet. A character makes disparaging remarks about another man’s reformations.

Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...

Why is posturing and smack talk (a sports term for trash talk used to rile up the opponent) so important for the fighters in the sport? What is the purpose of it?

What kind of risk does Brendan’s friend take when he agrees to train the former fighter? How does he exemplify faith and friendship? How would a loss have affected the trainer’s reputation?

What does Paddy mean when he says the members of his family are all lost? How does his obsession with alcohol relate to Captain Ahab’s obsession with the whale in Moby Dick (the book that Paddy is listening to on tape)? What role does forgiveness play in this family? Why does Paddy seem satisfied at the end of the movie?

Video alternatives

Fist-to-fist competitions also draw contenders in the movies Rocky and The Karate Kid. Another wife fears for her husband’s safety when he returns to the boxing ring in the movie Cinderella Man.An alcoholic father troubles an athlete in Hoosiers. The writer/director of this movie worked on the hockey film Miracle as well.

Home Video Notes

Home Video Notes: Warrior

Release Date: 20 December 2011

Warrior release to DVD and Blu-ray with the following bonus extras:

- Enhanced Viewing Mode for the feature film

- Audio commentary

- Making-of documentary

- Deleted scene

- MMA strategy feature

- Gag reel

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About the Reviewer: Kerry Bennett

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