Film Review: Warrior

Despite a fairly predictable plot, Warrior is an incredibly absorbing film. The film pulls in viewers from the beginning, and does not relent until the very end.

A former soldier returns to his father’s home after a lengthy absence. His father is a recovering alcoholic and former trainer. Tom allows his father to train him for a mixed martial arts tournament. At the same time, Tom’s brother Brendan begins to train, hoping the money from tournaments will help to solve his family’s financial problems…

Treading a similar path to David O. Russell’s The Fighter, Warrior focuses on an against-the-odds battle. The twist here, however, is that both brothers are competing for the same prize. Gavin O’Connor’s film is curious in the way that it shapes the two protagonists. From the outset, the fractured nature of Tom and his father’s relationship is made clear. Yet Brendan’s relationship with Tom remains ambiguous. Thus, as the film progresses, viewers await this non-violent confrontation as much as they await the fight.

Another facet which makes Warrior interesting is the dual protagonist form. Both Tom and Brendan are after the same prize, and both have good reasons for pursuing it. The brothers are both characters that the audience roots for. The inevitable conflict arises when they are pitted against each other. There is a tension in who to root for, as you hope both will be successful. The ending feeds into this, perhaps not giving the closure which viewers may desire.

O’Connor’s camera work is engineered to create a certain kind of atmosphere. The entire film is made up of handheld shots. This works exceptional well in the fight sequences, giving the impression of actually being at the event with the obscured vision and fluidity. Nevertheless, the constant motion in the other scenes can be dizzying at times. There is an intensity to the film that is unrelenting. This is aided by the method in which Warrior starts and ends, but also by the pacing, editing and camera work.

Tom Hardy offers a solid performance as Tom, in a physically demanding role. As family man Brendan, Joel Edgerton has the opportunity to show a slightly wider range. Nick Nolte offers an accomplished performance as Paddy Conlon, father of the two brothers.

Warrior is a fine sports movie, offering an intensity that has been rarely matched by films in this category.

Film Review: Zookeeper

Zookeeper is pretty much what you would you would expect from a film starring Kevin James and produced by Adam Sandler. It is mildly entertaining fare, and not as funny as it should be.

Griffin is a zookeeper at Franklin Park Zoo. Five years ago, he had his heart broken by Stephanie when she turned down his marriage proposal. She is back on the scene in the run up to Griffin’s brother’s wedding, but Griffin is clueless about how to act. His beloved animals see this, and reveal a crucial secret: they can speak. The animals make it their duty to help Griffin with his love life…

Zookeeper follows a strict formula, which makes it predictable. Director Frank Coraci relies on stock archetypes to populate his film. Both the humans and the animals are very stereotypical, offering little in terms of innovation. Zookeeper is very much by the numbers, which would not be much of a problem if the film was funnier.

As it stands, the film lacks consistent humour. There are a few fairly amusing moments, but the film can never be described as hilarious. Many of the jokes rely upon the personalities of the animals. If you do not find these characters amusing, you are unlikely to find the humour funny.

Despite the presence of talking animals, perhaps what is most difficult to believe is that two very attractive women would be in a love triangle with Kevin James. This may seem like a shallow contention, but the women are both very attractive. Moreover, Griffin is not a particularly charming character. He is a nice guy, but he does not have a fantastic personality. And, for the misfortune of the two female characters and the entire audience, Griffin is not funny.

The casting in Zookeeper is hit and miss. Sylvester Stallone and Cher are most appropriate as the lions Joe and Janet. Nick Nolte brings some presence to the film as Bernie the gorilla. Adam Sandler, however, is abominable as Donald the monkey. The character has some of the best lines, which are ruined by Sandler’s sub-par delivery. Kevin James delivers his usual routine as Griffin, while Leslie Bibb is suitably one-dimensional as Stephanie. Rosario Dawson is decent, but restricted by her underdeveloped role.

Zookeeper does offer good special effects as well as some great animal actors. Nevertheless, it lacks the humour really required in a film such as this.