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Warrior: What He Said

December 30, 2011
by

A.O. Scott on ‘Warrior’:

They fight because every other way of being a man has been compromised, undermined or taken away. […]

In such conditions stripping down to your shorts and beating another guy senseless can seem not only logical, but also noble. The mock-gladiatorial theatrics of mixed martial arts may look tawdry and overblown, but the sport, perhaps even more than boxing, expresses a deep and authentic impulse to find meaning through the infliction and acceptance of pain. While the Conlon brothers are both fighting for the money, the real stakes are much deeper. Though their climactic confrontation is terrifyingly violent, it is also tender. And the most disarming thing about “Warrior” is that, for all its mayhem, it is a movie about love.

It’s a good movie!

The only weird thing about ‘Warrior’ (besides how good it is) is how shamelessly it promotes Mixed Martial Arts as a legitimate, popular American pasttime, rather than the niche backwater it actually is.

The movie contains dozens of scenes where CNN reporters investigate and interview MMA fighters in a contrived Today’s Top Story kind of way. The movie’s final tournament (it’s called ‘Sparta’. You half expect the name to include an exclamation mark) is broadcast on ESPN rather than pay-per-view. Dozens of reporters greet the fighters when they arrive at the hotel, and hold a pre-tournament press conference.

In what alternate-universe America does this movie take place? MMA is covered by CNN about as often as Wrestlemania, and ESPN barely gets near it. The movie never questions the the format (‘cage-fighting’) of MMA or its long-term effects on its participants. I have no evidence for this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the MMA partly funded, or at least officially approved, Warrior’s final cut.

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