Hollywood Finally Gets It Right: Warrior Is the First Great MMA Film

Ryan SzAnalyst IISeptember 17, 2011

Every sport has at least one great movie to go along with it. Football has Rudy and Brian's Song, Baseball has The Natural and Major League. Boxing has the Rocky series, well, except number five.

These are just a couple of the many that are out there, yet when it comes to MMA, Hollywood has struck out every time. There was The Quest with Van Damm, which was one of the first that showed fighters of different styles fighting, it tanked.

Later there would be movies like Fighting with Channing Tatum that was all about underground fighting, the idea of human cockfighting which pundits like to call MMA, again it tanked. Then came Never Back Down, which was like the Karate Kid but with MMA.Yet unlike that movie, Never Back Down sucked.

The closest Hollywood ever got to getting a good MMA movie was Redbelt, which showed some respect to the sport and its beginnings, but also showed it as a corrupt and fixed sport like some say boxing has become.

Now there is finally a movie worthy of being called a MMA movie. Warrior came out last week and is not only a great MMA movie, but also a great movie in general. It takes what some would call sport movie cliches and makes them seem incredibly new.

If you've seen the trailers, you know the movie is about two brothers who end up joining a tournament in order to win the $5 million purse. Older brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton) is a high school physics teacher with a family and a former journeyman in the UFC. He's underwater on his house after refinancing it to pay for his daughter's heart surgery. He decides to help pay the mortgage by fighting weekend MMA fighters in local tournaments in parking lots. He is suspended from teaching after word spreads about his moonlighting, so he goes back into training full time.

On the other side is his brother Tommy (Tom Hardy), a marine who has something to hide and has a background as a wrestler from childhood under the training of his recovering alcoholic father Paddy (Nick Nolte). He becomes a YouTube sensation a la Kimbo Slice after he knocks out a fighter already entered in the tournament. He wants the prize money so that he can help the family of a fallen friend and soldier.

The tournament itself is a decent setup for people who don't know much about MMA, but for fans, they will love the characters as they are made to represent real fighters. Pro wrestler Kurt Angle appears in the movie as Koba, a clear reference to Fedor Emelianenko, as he is an undefeated MMA fighter, Olympic gold medalist and World Sambo Champion.

You have Anthony "Rumble" Johnson as Orlando "Nightmare" Lee as a representation of Rampage Jackson with the trash talk he does and being known simply as Nightmare. Nate Marquardt has a small role Karl "The Dane" Kruller as a possible nod to Bas Rutten.

Where this film succeeds where others failed is that it puts life into the characters outside of just being fighters. You actually want to see the main characters succeed because their stories are so deep. While you know from the trailer that the brothers meet each other in the finals of the tournament, you have no idea who will win, submission specialist Brendan or KO artist Tommy. And better yet, by the time the finals come, you're rooting for both brothers.

This movie has the realism to bring in the fans of MMA, while at the same time being user friendly to people who may have never watch a single MMA match in their lives. The film gives and shows respect to fighters and the sport itself by making them seem human rather than brain dead animals fighting in a cage. All of the main actors, especially Nick Nolte, give fantastic performances and the movie is well paced for an almost a 2 1/2 hour movie. If you haven't seen Warrior yet, go out and do so, you won't be disappointed.