Warrior: You can act it out with promising up-and-coming actors like Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton, you can slow it down to notice actual details about the characters’ lives, you can dress it up with some powerful emoting, and you can even wobble the camera around like it’s a raw documentary, but Warrior is still an inspirational sports movie about beating the odds. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Gavin O’Connor, of the hockey-triumph true-story Miracle, is back to making a career out of nothing being wrong with that, after a detour into (not-dissimilar) Irish-copy angst with Pride and Glory.
Warrior takes another pair of brothers, played by Edgerton and Hardy, makes ‘em both former fighters—Hardy was favored by alcoholic dad Nick Nolte; Edgerton was and is the scrappy underdog—and gives ‘em both perfectly reasonable if intensely melodramatic reasons to make a run at a Mixed Martial Arts tournament with a five million dollar purse. The two actors’ versions of toughness—Edgerton’s desperation to provide for his family, Hardy’s wounded anger—gives their parallel stories momentum, and Warrior is involving, including the way it manages to make MMA seem merely as brutal and animalistic as boxing or wrestling, and not far more. But it’s still a movie that cuts between multiple extremely vocal cheering sections watching climactic fights on television, puts women in the worried-or-dead roles, and solves most of its problems through fantastical feats of strength. It does all of this with decent skill and sensitivity; there’s nothing wrong with a slice or two of cheese. Just please don’t start calling this some kind of little movie that could.
Contagion: I don’t know how I’m going to deal with this Soderbergh mini-retirement; I get antsy when it’s been a mere two years since a Soderbergh picture, almost the exact amount of time elapsed between The Informant! and his new ensemble pandemic thriller. Luckily, he’s got Haywire coming out in January, and three more movies (Magic Mike; The Man from UNCLE; and a Liberace biography) set to go over the next year or so. Magic Mike wasn’t always part of the plan, so part of me thinks Soderbergh will keep squeezing in one extra movie until he dies. In any case, he’s back in big-studio Traffic mode, with a film which I assume answers two very important questions: What if a massive supervirus attacked humanity? And: What if Outbreak had been really good? The principle cast of The Talented Mr. Ripley stars, plus Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, John Hawkes, Demetri Martin, and Keith Mars from TV’s Veronica Mars. That these people have all assembled for something not produced by Jerry Bruckheimer means that it’s officially fall!
Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star: For the frequency of Happy Madison’s Goofy Name: Dopey Subtitle formula, in which an Adam Sandler cohort is given a character too goony even for the Sandman in his prime (see David Spade in Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star; David Spade in Joe Dirt; Rob Schneider in Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo), you’d think it would have yielded hit after hit, rather than, you know, one (take a bow, Deuce Bigalow). But I guess even movies like Grandma’s Boy probably do OK on DVD and don’t cost much to produce, which means that it’s Nick Swardson’s turn for Bucky Larson, a long-shelved sex comedy that will almost certainly include very little sex.
Swardson plays a bucktoothed goon with a cartoon accent who finds out that his parents were porn actors and pursues “stardom” in the business himself. Actually, like Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, this isn’t a bad high-concept broad-comedy pitch—but I’m sure the resemblance continues right down to the movie sucking. Nonetheless, some kind of audience will eventually find this movie; I’m pretty sure there hasn’t been a broad grotesque studio comedy made in the last decade that didn’t pick up some kind of misguided DVD following. In fact, I’d love to see a statistical analysis comparing the mangy cult followings of, say, Strange Wilderness (never seen it) to, say, Dirty Work (saw it twice in the theaters, own the VHS!), though maybe that study should wait until Peter Dante gets his own Sandler-produced crapfest.