Welcome to my new series Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more.
Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic stopping most sport, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there. For each movie I will be giving some details about the movie and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.
This series has been heavily influenced by Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai of Action Industries, and as such I will be borrowing a couple of sections that they use in their weekly show Action Movie Anatomy: Fist-pump moment and favourite line. Be aware, they will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.
I wanted to start the series with a bang, so I have started with a movie I was watching for the first time after hearing Ben and Drew continually praise it: Warrior
Directed by Gavin O’Connor
Music by Mark Isham
Released in 2011
Starring: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo
Synopsis: Two estranged brothers come back into each others lives as they find themselves both competing in a winner-takes-all mixed martial arts tournament.
After hearing Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai hype up this movie so often, I was keen to watch it but also a little nervous that it would not live up to the hype… I needn’t have worried. I immediately fell in love with this movie and already feel comfortable putting this in my top 5 movies after just 1 watch!
Tim Etheridge (@PStetheridge) March 24, 2020
This is not just a sports movie. It is an emotional drama set around a sports event, with everything going on away from the octagon being as important (if not more so) than what is actually happening. All 5 of the main actors feel perfect for their roles and while it was potentially a risk to cast Hardy and Edgerton in the lead roles when they were still relative unknowns, they carried the movie so well and were so believable in both the drama and the action sequences. Grillo and Morrison were fantastic in their supporting roles, but Nick Nolte was absolutely superb in the role of the alcohlic estranged father and Tommy’s (Hardy) coach. He was fully deserving of his Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor and Christopher Plummer’s performance in Beginners must have been amazing to deny him the award!
What the movie does really well is build on what you know about the brothers and their backstory as the movie goes on. At the start, you know very little about them, but as the story continues you slowly get to see why each of the brothers is motivated to win the tournament, why they became estranged and how they both came to be in their respective situations. The way that Tommy’s backstory comes out slowly as the film progresses is amazing and I must admit that I didn’t see the final reveal coming but it did a great job of making everything click into place. What this means is that our feelings for the characters are built on how they act and talk rather than what we initially know about them. I also really like how neither of them is really a villain (Hardy could probably be considered an antihero), which creates a different dynamic to what you would see in most sports stories, as the most villainous characters are the brothers’ semifinal opponents. This allows for a final where you feel conflicted as to who you should want to win (even though it should be Brendan, there is enough to make you cheer for Tommy) and the brothers’ relationship can become the focus as much as the actual fight itself and building to a beautiful ending.
If you’ve never watched this movie, stop reading this and put it on now!
So I want to start this section by saying that MMA is far from my strong suit, I will watch on occasion but not regularly, so the sporting aspect is not one that I can judge as closely as I can in some other sports. It certainly feels though that the fights are realistic, as we see different fighters using different styles (Hardy’s Tommy is more of a brute fighter, Edgerton’s Brendan is more technical).
The joy of combat sports like MMA and boxing are that they are easy for someone watching the movie to pick up the basics without having to know the full ins and outs. All you need to know is that the fights are split into rounds and that one guy is trying to knock out their opponent or make them submit.
For me, this was Brendan’s semifinal against Koba, going from Frank’s (Frank Grillo) talk in the corner right up to the end of the fight when Koba taps out. The speech in the corner was fantastic and the build through the round as Brendan went from being bullied around the octagon to slowly taking control and pulling off the victory felt like an amazing climax… and that was with the final still to come!
“Look at me! Look at me! Why are we here, Brendan? Why are we here? Are we here to win this fight? You tell me, ’cause if we’re not, I’ll throw in the towel right now. We’ll get Tess and we will go home. You don’t knock him out, you lose the fight. Understand me? You don’t knock him out, you don’t have a home!”
If we’re talking inspirational lines, it’s the one above, but as with so many sports movies, we got an absolute zinger in the commentary that gets my pick here:
“He ripped the door off a tank!”
What did you think of this movie? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!