Thursday, 13 October 2011

Warrior - Gavin O'Connor (2011)

  1. Warrior is a 140-minute-long advertisement for the mixed martial arts promotion company UFC and the associated clothing brand TapouT (sic) probably also the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority.
  2. As all sensible people agree, when a film is part-funded by a particular concern, in return for featuring a message about that concern, then it is no longer a piece of art, it has become an advertisement. Films like this include The Hangover - an unfunny screwball caper one suspects owed a great deal to the generosity of the kind of businessmen who have an interest in promoting Las Vegas as a city of moral license where the prostitutes look like Heather Graham - and Transformers which should properly be called Selling Cars to Children. If you don't share this view on product placement in films, go ask David Lynch.
  3. Warrior is an especially pernicious example of the film-as-ad genre because unlike both The Hangover and Transformers it contains many elements of an actual film - including some brilliant dialogue and excellent performances - especially from Nick Nolte and Tom Hardy. I mention dialogue rather than writing because the construction of the screenplay, the plotting element of the writing, is insane.
  4. There is a point where situations get so improbable that they almost become probable again. When the Iraq war hero who went AWOL fights his way to the championships of a international mixed martial arts tournament only to end up in the final against a physics teacher, who's just come out of retirement in order to cover the mortgage repayments on his house (which mortgage he originally took out to pay the bills associated with his second child's rare heart condition) and who has been drafted in to replace a pro fighter who has suffered a horrific jogging injury, turns out to be the Iraq vet's own estranged brother, we must assume this is what the screenwriters were going for. They even have one of the fight commentators say: 'It's unbelievable!' You have to admire their balls.
  5. The line 'hard to find a woman who can take a punch these days' is proof of the structuralist dictum that beauty is information. It contains the history of Tommy's childhood, his fighter's voice, his humour, his father's backstory and the character of his mother, all in 11 words.
  6. The step in 12-step recovery which Paddy (Nick Nolte) is trying to enact by apologising to his sons is the 9th step ('We made direct amends to such people except when to do so would injure them or others'.) The tradition which Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte routinely break by talking about their real life membership of 12-step fellowships is the 11th Tradition ('We should ever remain anonymous at the level of press, radio and film.') NA also featured largely in The Fighter a film that was both more and less realistic than this one.
  7. The extraordinarily overdeveloped muscles which make Hardy look like he's carrying a backpack full of marrows under his sweatshirt are his trapezius and rhombodeus major. It's ok to find them weird and gross.
  8. One of the other ways that you can tell this is an advert is that it has no bad guys. All of the characters, even the 'bad' ones like Tommy or Paddy, are victims of circumstance: the economy, their parents, their grief, the Iraq war, alcoholism. This is necessary in order to explain their propensity for violence in such a way that it appears sympathetic. The UFC is not just a place where violent men over-extend one another's elbows in front of a baying mob - it's a therapeutic octagon where families can get together and work through their problems. 
  9. The hold with which Brendan dislocates Tommy's shoulder is called a Kimura. The climactic final hold, which precipitates Brendan's primal cathartic cry of 'I LOVE YOU! I'M SORRY!' is called, touchingly, a rear naked choke. Because he is naked. Emotionally.
  10. When Tommy continues to fight Brendan, with one arm dangling broken and useless in front of him, it is essential to shout 'it's just a flesh wound!'


  1. There are people out there who have a man crush on Ryan Gosling. Mine is on Tom Hardy (I am watching Inception as I type). Or it was until I saw this:

  2. I really like his Eames in that film, public school captain of the first eleven as action hero - you could do a whole film like that, Americans would love it. In fact, everyone would love it.

    That other has a rather powerful smell of bum about it.

  3. Was vaguely considering doing a Christopher Nolan season. I'm not sure I could sit through both Batmen again though.

  4. Both utterly humourless. TDK quite embarrassing in many ways (Bale's growly accent, the daft dilemma with the prisoners at the end, Morgan Freeman's guilt trip about surveillance), but at least no Katie Holmes (although having said that, the most embarrassing scene in TDK is when Maggie Gyllenhaal tries to walk sexily. She just isn't hot enough to pull that off).