The fitting filmic translation that MMA deserves.
MMA, or mixed martial arts, is still regarded as an emerging sport, but due to increasing popularity it is unsurprising that there has been an influx of films centred on the sport. With its rich history in film boxing has provided the bases of some of the industry’s finest films; Raging Bull (1980), Rocky (1976) and Ali (2001). Contemporary MMA films, such asNever Back Down (2008) and Fighting (2009), tend to borrow from these famous releases, but fail in comparison to previous films due to clichéd and unengaging narratives. Warrior, released theatrically towards the end of 2011, provides a revival and clean slate for the MMA format by capturing the attributes of the sport with its frighteningly tense fight scenes and deeply emotive narrative.
The youngest son, Tommy (Tom Hardy), of former alcoholic boxer Paddy (Nick Nolte) returns home to be trained by his father for a mixed martial arts tournament; a path that puts the troubled fighter on a collision course with his older brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton).
At the centre of the narrative are two brothers, each entering the MMA tournament, Sparta, but with different motives. Throughout the film’s course we are given an insight into both of their lives, which makes it increasingly tough to choose who to route for. Both Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton provide powerful performances within this emotionally gripping narrative, but are overshadowed by the immaculate Nick Nolte. In one of the finest performances of his career, Nolte captures all the sorrow and regret in his role as a recovering alcoholic and abusive father seeking to appease his lamentable past.
Though it doesn’t share the same realist nature of The Fighter (2010), this film certainly provides comparisons in terms of characterisation and engaging narrative and is undoubtedly the most underrated film of 2011.