QUEER CLIP: ‘Warrior’

screen-2There are worse ways to spend two hours in a movie theater than watching hulking, half-naked man-meat wail on each other — in fact, it’s hard to imagine a better way. That’s at least part of the appeal of Warrior.

Set in the world of mixed martial arts, it’s a fiction film (it’s from Gavin O’Connor, the director of Miracle, about the real-life 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team) about two estranged brothers who face off for the ultimate glory: One (Joel Edgerton), a family man in financial straights, the other (Tom Hardy), a troubled Gulf War veteran with something to prove. If that sounds cliched, just try watching it.

No really, do — because, as predictable and manipulative as Warrior is, it’s also damned entertaining, in the way only the hokiest of sports movies can be. I grew up in a sports household, so have long held a soft spot for movies like Million Dollar Baby, Rocky III and The Fighter, all of which this resembles more than passingly.

Hardy, a brooding slab of muscle, has Brando stamped all over his performance, and O’Connor effectively evokes the overcast, aimless depression of the Rust Belt occupied by contentious Irishmen. Add a serious dose of homoeroticism. and that’s a recipe — OK, a formula — for a feel-good film.

— A.W.J.

Three stars. Now playing in wide release.

—  Kevin Thomas

The electric Norseman

When I was a kid, all I knew about Thor was he had long blond hair and big muscles and he carried a huge hammer and he was a god. My fantasy life took over from there. To be honest, I had just as big a crush on his  nemesis, brother Loki, whose horns and lackadaisical villainy were seductive.

Those roles are almost reversed in Thor, the new live action film that kicks off the summer movie season. One look at bearded, impossibly over-muscled Aussie Chris Hemsworth as Thor and you’ll believe in at least one god.

Some mythologies are inherently more receptive to cinematic expression than others, and it was a stroke of genius to hire Kenneth Branagh to direct this. He gives the story a Shakespearean scope, with Loki playing Iago to Thor’s Othello. He also knows something of character development, humanizing Loki and making the bigger-than-life characters relatable.

There are some slow parts, and the opening is a visual muddle that doesn’t benefit from the 3-D add-on, especially when the special effects themselves are so impressive. The penultimate battle, with a hulking robot called The Destroyer, has a primal urgency that sneaks up on you. And the art direction is a glorious fantasia of otherworldly grandeur. It’s almost as pretty to look at as Thor himself. Almost.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Opens today in wide release.
Three stars

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens