Boxing to Beethoven

Stars: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo, Kevin Dunn and Kurt Angle
Director: Gavin O'Connor
Scriptwriters: Gavin O'Connor, Cliff Dorfman and Anthony Tambakis
Composer: Mark Isham
Lionsgate/Mimran Schur Pictures
Rating: PG 13 for martial arts violence
Running Length: 130 minutes

Warrior---you may think, oh no, not another kick-boxing film. This one is different and no Van Damme in sight, but a story of two estranged brothers and their alcoholic father. The story in “Warrior” is really about alcoholism and how it broke apart a family. Everyone, including the father, internalizes their emotions only to release them in either the boxing ring by beating up opponents or taking on whiskey and becoming oblivious to everyone around you. The family spins out of control only to have life toss them back together again for a final match.
In the film, the father, Paddy  (Nick Nolte) ended up with one son, Brendan (Joel Edgerton) from whom he has been estranged. The other son, Tommy (Tom Hardy) has been long gone and suddenly appears, having taken the maiden name of his mother, Nolte’s late wife. Tommy and the mother left Paddy and went on their own, then the mother became ill and died. Tommy went into the military and now is back wanting to go into mixed martial arts again with Paddy as his trainer. Unknown to them, Brendan, with financial worries, has gone into mixed martial arts, too, and is secretly trained by an old friend, Frank (Frank Grillo). When Brendan goes into the classroom one morning with a beat-up face, he is suspended without pay by Principal Zito (Kevin Dunn) and has to go into sports seriously for a paycheck. Thus, we have the set-up of two brothers, both fighters, and two trainers with different methods. One uses the standard method while the other (Frank) has Brendan train and relax by listening to Beethoven. Tommy starts a fight by knocking the opponent out right away---simple brute force. Brendan uses a slower method involving some leverage (he is a physics teacher) and wins this way. You know eventually they are going to have to meet in the ring for the big monetary pay-off, but it is how they get there that is interesting, as their pasts start to unfold with their drunken Dad and late mother always in the middle. The ghosts of the past haunt into daylight and settle into the ring.
The acting in Warrior is well done, except for the stoic Tom Hardy, with shoulder muscles that enter the screen before he does. He has no facial emotion even in a crucial scene with his drunken father, played by a no-holds-barred-low-voiced Nick Nolte, or a scene at the beach with Joel Edgerton, the older brother. Edgerton does show facial emotion which is apparent in scenes with his two daughters and his students. At the bank, trying to get a break on the mortgage, is another well-played scene. Everyone else does what they are supposed to do---show despair and then joy as the fight wins keep coming in. You almost expect to hear the music from “Rocky I” in the background, but composer Mark Isham has his own take on the soundtrack. But then, this is a fight movie, so facial emotions come from the crowd around the ring, too, as the camera does roam there to give the audience a view of fan power.
Warrior is overlong with scenes of cheering crowds, training sequences and home life that could have been shortened. There are a few feel good moments that pop up like little cheering sections. However, the camera work and in-your-face style of mixed martial arts---a combination of kick-boxing and regular boxing--- is very good and brings the audience into the ring. So much so, you might feel grimy afterward.
One wonders, if a boxer’s hands are considered lethal weapons, what about a kick-boxer’s feet?  Just saying…..
Copyright 2011 Marie Asner


The 2011 Kansas International Film Festival (KIFF) will run from Sept 23, 2011-October 6, 2011 in Overland Park, Kansas, a western suburb of the greater Kansas City area. The Festival will be held in the three theaters of the Glenwood Arts Theater, 95th and Metcalf, Overland Park. Filmmakers will be present for many of the films including award-winning filmmaker Yurij Luhovy and his documentary of the forced famine in the Ukraine in the 1930’s called “Genocide Revealed.” There are over 45 films in the Festival such as “Beatles Stories,“ “Holly Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians,“ “Halfway” and a preview screening of “We Need To Talk About Kevin” about a boy who commits murder in his school. Ticket prices and more information is available at the web site www.KansasFilm.com or by phone 1-913-642-4404.