Friday, September 9, 2011

Gavin O'Connor: The Weary Fighter (Warrior)

Tom Hardy, Warrior, Lionsgate Films, 2011.

The urban family drama and the inspirational athletic tale get a not so new yet intermittently interesting makeover in noteworthy helmer Gavin O'Connor's new film, Warrior.

Last year, younger American master David O. Russell schooled us on how convention can be spun into urgency with his excellent film The Fighter. O'Connor, a talented workman, once again treads familiar ground with potential yet ultimately not enough panache. What saves his overlong, overwrought family/sports drama are the intimate performances of Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte, fueling a much needed intensity as father and sons. The inner-city, working class milieu, drenched in alcoholism, Catholocism and resentment, is pungent and a bit much. Cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi lights the grim proceedings luminescently, alternating rugged and washed out as the proceedings dictate, ultimately swallowed at the grossly "glorious" falsity of the climax in hollow light.

O'Connor has always shown a propensity for local color, as displayed in his even more routine sports smash Miracle, and his best film to date, the underrated cop drama Pride and Glory. His undoing is always his indulgence and reliance on the dull, worn out cliches of his screenplays, which other directors could tweak and elaborate on. O'Connor seems to take them deadly serious. The outcome is a frustratingly mixed film as this one.

While Nolte infuses his twilight pater with hard edged sorrow, and Edgerton locates the heart of his conflicted brother/son/teacher/husband/father/fighter, it is Tom Hardy who is what heart this pic does have. The palpitations of his raw, honest portrayal of hurt and longing reverberate across the mediocre pieces, confirming what anyone who's payed any attention to this hallowed hunk actor has always known. The star of Bronson and Inception is going to be one of the greats, a la James Dean and Heath Ledger, the angst of a generation.

In the end, we walk away weary, from the familiar done too typically, the peculiar depth of the acting, and the hyper masculinity and Adonis bodies run rampant.

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