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Friday, September 9, 2011

Dour Combat: Gavin O'Connor's "Warrior"

Here is a link to a piece of mine appearing today on Catholic Exchange, a review of Gavin O’Connor’s fine new film, Warrior (click here for the trailer).

In yesterday’s New York Times, A.O. Scott wrote an exceptionally interesting review of the film. I especially like the following observations in which he links the film’s setting in the world of mixed martial arts with America’s current economic and cultural plight:

But if there is something primal and archaic in Mr. O’Connor’s fable of fathers and sons, he nonetheless grounds it in the painful realities of contemporary America. With arresting honesty and enormous compassion — but without making a big topical deal out of it — Warrior looks at an American working class reeling from the one-two punch of war and recession. Tommy and Brendan are too proud for self-pity, which makes the evident pain of their circumstances all the more affecting.
They fight because every other way of being a man has been compromised, undermined or taken away. Patriarchal authority, as represented by Paddy, is cruel and unbending until it turns sentimental and pathetic. The roads to an honorable life promised by work and military service are mined and muddied by the greed and mendacity of the institutions — government, schools, banks — that are supposed to uphold integrity.
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.


  1. Iread your piece on Catholic Exchange when it came out and I wanted to read it again but an error comes up on the link. Searching on Catholic Exchange is of no use either. Could you provide the article in some other form? Thanks! Maria B.

  2. Hi Maria,
    I assume you mean my piece on WARRIOR?

  3. If you would like to email me at, I'd be happy to send you the WARRIOR piece.

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