'Warrior' Blu-ray Review: 'Rocky' Redux
“Warrior” is this generation’s “Rocky.” Too bad precious few ticket buyers got that memo.
"Warrior," available now on Blu-ray, DVD, Video on Demand and Digital Download, failed to connect with audiences despite the kind of crowd-friendly elements that usually spark blockbuster status.
Perhaps the rising sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) remains too niche for mainstream appeal, but if any film could make the masses embrace its furious battles, it's "Warrior."
[youtube pmlBz0yn86w nolink]
The film gives us not one but two fighters to cheer on, a mismatched pair plowing their way through a rogue’s gallery of MMA foes. But the fighters can’t out-grizzle Nick Nolte, sure to gin up Oscar votes for playing an alcoholic shadow boxing his own demons.
Estranged brothers Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton) have little in common save their blood line and a penchant for scrapping. Tommy has kept to himself since returning from a tour of duty in Iraq. Only when he realizes he needs cash does he reconnect with his estranged father (Nolte) to help him train for an upcoming MMA competition.
It’s just business, Tommy warns him. Don’t get any funny ideas about any sort of reconciliation. There isn’t a cut man alive who can heal Tommy’s feelings about his pa. And Nolte registers that cruel fact in every scene. It’s the kind of performance that feels like it was a lifetime in the making.
Brendan’s chances seem spotty even by “Rocky” standards. Brendan isn’t getting any younger, and it’s been some time since he seriously trained for battle. But you never count out a man who knows the mortgage is in play every time he steps into the cage.
“Warrior” baldly embraces every boxing movie clichés in the repertoire. Despite his bulk, Edgerton hardly strikes fear into the hearts of his opponents. And we endure the obligatory reaction shots of the fighters’ friends watching the bouts, cheering every uppercut. When a film like “Warrior” works, it doesn’t matter how many plot points came from the nearest recycling center.
Hardy is so wound so tight here it feels like a vein is about to pop on his forehead. It’s the same fury he brought to “Bronson,” and it’s intoxicating.
The Blu-ray features lead off with "Warrior: Full Contact," an enhanced viewing mode complete with commentaries, videos interviews and genial banter from director Gavin O'Connor. It's as comprehensive as a Blu-ray feature can get, although it's a shame the mode relegates the movie itself to a small screen in the bottom right hand corner.
You also get a standard audio commentary track with the filmmakers and co-star Edgerton, plus the documentary "Redemption: Bringing 'Warrior' to Life."
The extras don't end there. The package includes a gag reel - hardly common in such sober dramas - which roars to life when MADtv alum Bryan Callen takes it upon himself to break the on-set tension. "Brother vs. Brother: Anatomy of the Fight" should please MMA faithful as well as anyone who ever wondered how a film fight gets made. Other goodies include a tribute to MMA entrepreneur Charles "Mask" Lewis, Jr. and a MMA strategy segment.
"The sport hasn't had its 'Rocky' ... it hasn't had its 'Raging Bull.'" co-screenwriter Anthony Tambakis says of MMA during the documentary portion of the extras. Maybe not, but it's hard to imagine a film better suited to introduce the brutal sport to a curious public.