Warrior

The Fighter” isn’t exactly “Raging Bull,” but it’s a better film than most give it credit for. To call “Warrior” just a Mixed Martial Arts “Fighter” set in Philly however is giving “Warrior” way too much credit.

Watching “Warrior” I realized all the things “The Fighter” actually does not do. It has no split screen montages, no wives telling their husbands fighting is the wrong life for a family man, no shaky cam fight scenes, no unbeatable foreign behemoth, no money problems, no dark pasts conjured out of thin air, no legal issues, no dead mother, no washed up father lamenting his glory days, no fake SportsCenter clips and most of all, no parables.

“Warrior” has all of these things, and yet lacks a minute of the fun in watching Micky Ward’s train wreck of a brother, his posse full of trashy sisters, his tart and sexy girlfriend or his commanding and memorable mother.

Instead it focuses on two brothers who have been beaten down by life and thrive only by beating others in a UFC cage match. Tommy’s (Tom Hardy) life is shrouded in mystery after a heroic turn in the Marines, and Brendan’s (Joel Edgerton) happy family life is being threatened by home foreclosure.

Both enter a tournament with a $5 million prize and carry with them their only personality trait of determination. They’re one-dimensional figures with a deep family history that is used more for pathos purposes than actual specifics.

And yet both are resolutely disparaging to their father Paddy (Nick Nolte), who has been sober for a thousand days but can’t reconcile with his family. Again, the details are vague, but Nick Nolte, who just received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, is so beaten up and abused in the film, he gets the pity vote for performances.

The soapy sports drama could be excused if “Warrior” was visually engaging and light on the annoying background elements that typically overwhelm sports movies.

By this I mean, I HATE the fake broadcasters. They recycle plot points endlessly in the very long tournament sequence, with catch phrases and wordplay punctuating every sentence. If I wanted to watch obnoxious UFC commentators on Spike TV, I might be able to watch with more clarity than this film provides.

Director Gavin O’Connor (“Pride and Glory”) films the fights from behind barriers, ropes, cages and heads. The movie never allows us to see a punch for all its worth.

It’s an ugly, jittery, annoying and contrived film that never relents in beating you.

2 stars

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