They say in recession times that Hollywood typically plays it even safer than usual and Warrior is essentially just more run of the mill formulaic tosh to toss onto the burning stockpile.
Strictly speaking, it is not a boxing film, but a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting film, but essentially it uses the same stock dramatic boxing movie devices. It tells the story of a recovering alcoholic and born-again Christian father, Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte) and his two sons, Tom (Tom Hardy) the younger of the two brothers who served in the army and also had the burden of looking after his sick dying mother and his older brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton), who moved away with his girlfriend whom he married and had kids with and is now a physics teacher. All three men have not seen each other since the two brothers were kids until fate brings them together once again. Insert up-against-the-odds fighter with nothing or everything to lose, in this case the two brothers (ooh radical), Leviathan-like champion – scary unbeatable looking Russian dude, cue predictable resulting fights, cue family and friends going crazy watching on TVs, cue rousing song leading to climax of the big final fight, roll credits.
It’s a movie that you really have to try hard to suspend belief or undergo a quick lobotomy of sorts as for the most part it’s also fairly implausible stuff.
The film’s only saving grace is a mildly intriguing diversion of the unfolding relationship and previous history of the three leading male characters, but even this is just mired in too many convenient consequences. Younger son turns up on father’s door step after many years, older son has money problems and is facing losing his house, all three have not seen each other for years and by chance there is this humungous MMA tournament happening soon. Hmmm I wonder what will happen?
To its credit, the father and son’s back story, coupled with sticking rigidly to the tried and trusted boxing movie formula, means that Warrior does pass two hours and twenty minutes if you are just looking to completely switch off to some unthinking, mindless escapism. Also mixed martial arts fans will probably love it and tell you what a realistic and moving film it is, thoughtful or challenging film-making this is not and no way near decent boxing related movies of the past such as Raging Bull, Rocky, The Hurricane or The Cinderella Man.
In cinemas from September 23rd
That said, the film starts off with a gruesome prologue, set in an early 1900s house, showing deranged previous homeowner, Emerson Blackwood. We learn what happened to Blackwood and his son, which has been kept secret from the new owners and provides an initial warning of what is to come.
The film then shifts to current times, at which point we meet Sally (Bailee Madison), a somewhat disturbed girl, sent off to live with her dad Alex (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) at their new, spooky, Rhode Island countryside house. When Sally stumbles upon the locked up basement, she hears voices coming from behind a furnace that has clearly been bolted tight for a reason. The voices tell Sally they want to be her friend, and like any lonely little girl would do, Sally believes whatever the source behind the voices says. At first.
When she witnesses the brutal attack on groundkeeper Mr. Harris, she is left traumatized and tries to ignore the voices, which in return grow more and more violent. Sally tries to reach out to her father, but the house leaves him too preoccupied to deal with his daughter’s fribbles. Kim, on the other hand, believes something’s off and she delves into the history of the house.
Up until here, the film has followed the pre-paved pathway for a classic thriller in this genre. It has been keeping you on your toes, has made your stomach turn upside down and has left you with a myriad of goose bumps on your arms, and you are afraid of what’s coming next. Unfortunately, after this point Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark is rushed to its end.
Kim realises the danger Sally is in, and suddenly Alex does too. While rapidly packing up a few of their things, the creatures seal off the house, turn of the lights, and a five minute ordeal begins. The final scene, the denouement of a multi-million pound production, is very, very short and very, very confusing to say the least.
The audience is left with three big questions. Why didn’t the creatures come back for Sally, the object of their obsession? And why on earth doesn’t Alex even attempt to help or save Kim, the love of his life? Why do they want to resell the house?
Aside from the sudden and speculative end, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark portrays an eerie insight into the creatures, which are no more than a foot tall, appearing almost as demonic fairies or mini trolls. It is suggested that their story goes back centuries, all that time having fed on children’s bones and teeth to replenish their army.
Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark is, all in all, not a scary movie. The tension is building from the very beginning, but then fails to deliver near the end. It is, however, unnecessarily gory. Gore is fine when it has a greater purpose, but when it doesn’t add to the plot, it’s just gore.
In cinemas from 7th of October
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