This Week In Movies by Pete Hammond – Warrior

By Pete Hammond the Labor Day holiday the summer movie season has now come to an official close and it limped out with the dismal debuts of a couple of forgettable underachievers , Apollo 18 and Shark Night 3D, about which the less said the better. The Help , of course , continues to defy the odds as the southern-set drama about the travails of black maids in the 60’s just keeps on going like the energizer bunny and now has been ensconced in the number one position for three weeks in a row. This is a remarkable achievement considering the movie didn’t even open in first place, uncharacteristically rose to the spot and has managed to stay there against competition that represents Hollywood’s idea of what moviegoers want to see.

Yes, more shark attacks, horror films, stupid comedies and cinematic junk food. I am currently on a binge of the exact opposite of those type of movies as I travel from film festival to film festival. Today I am smack between Telluride and Toronto but already I am savoring the refreshing human films and interesting movies that will be offered up for Fall and it’s wildly different than what we have been seeing the past three months. But one that really deserves attention and that won’t be at any of those fall festivals got a rare nationwide sneak preview this week and the results , at least in terms of reported audience reaction are encouraging.

Director Gavin O’Connor’s Warrior might be dismissed as a Rocky wanna-be but it’s so much more. The story of two estranged brothers, played by Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton, who end up meeting in the mixed martial arts ring for a winner-take-all purse of $5 Million is not just a gung ho sports film, but a pulsating drama of fathers and sons and so much more. It’s the stuff of ‘Rocky’ and ‘Raging Bull’ yes, but also Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill. This is truly human , stand up and cheer drama on screen.

Warrior opens on Friday but Lionsgate has gotten such strong audience response already that they are counting on a surprise hit. I screened the film for my KCET screening series last week and the response was the same. This is a group that range in age from 25 to 85 but all seemed to love it.It plays on a visceral level but also is a relatable story of a dysfunctional family dynamic. What’s great is that the film is being embraced even though Edgerton (Kinky Boots) and Hardy (Inception, The Dark Kinght Rises) are not yet household names. They will be if this film takes off and I predict it will because in the movie business word of mouth is everything and this one will likely get propulsive WOM. At the Q&A following my screening Director O’Connor said the film had basically been rejected everywhere, by every studio but it was a passion project he knew he had to make. He also confirmed that Nick Nolte , who plays the n’er do well father, was his first choice for the role even though prospective financiers didn’t want him. He ran through the audition process even though he knew in the end the role was Nick’s. And he was right. This was the rare interview I have done in which the interviewee teared up. THAT’s how emotional it gets. He also confirmed that even though stunt doubles were used, the two leads did most of their own fighting and go such serious injuries that the film almost had to shut down. Fortunately it didn’t and we will soon see if it becomes a viral hit when Lionsgate opens the film wide this Friday.

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About Pete Hammond

Pete Hammond is a writer, producer, movie critic and film expert whose commentary on the entertainment industry has appeared in numerous publications and on air interviews including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, OK Magazine, NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw, Evening News With Brian Williams on MSNBC, the CBC, BBC, Bravo, E!, AMC, Canada AM and the KTLA Morning Show.

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