***1/2 (out of four)
How’s this for timing? High school physics teacher/ex-UFC fighter Brendan Conlon (
The buzz: Hey, sometimes Eli vs. Peyton happens, so it's not unthinkable that two brothers could engage in a championship showdown. What's more notable is that director/co-writer Gavin O'Connor ("Miracle") has made a sibling-driven fighting movie that feels more true than "The Fighter," even though "Warrior" is pure fiction.
The verdict: Yes, I got choked up. Like "Friday Night Lights," "Warrior" is a quiet character study so heart-wrenching it doesn't matter whether you have any interest in the sport at its center. (And if you do, there are plenty of big fight moments to inspire an "Ohhhhhhh!!!") O'Connor can't resist a few moments that make the film's persistent, understated blue-collarness feel manipulative, and a not-quite-convincing notion of how the guys work their way through the tournament detracts from the realism. (Also: Do runners-up not get prize money?) What lingers is the way "Warrior" takes familiar bones and loads them with muscle of its own to create a story of pure will and determination without any glamour or posturing. Life experience practically drips off the movie like sweat, and "Warrior" is surely as moving a film as possible to make about people beating the stuffing out of each other.
Did you know? Brendan wants to make it clear that he wasn't fighting in a strip club--it was a fight held in the parking lot of a strip club. Apples and oranges.
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