Warrior Blu-ray Review
Warrior gets an AVC encode that takes great delight in revealing every pore, blemish, drop of sweat and livid welt and bruise on offer within the 2.40:1 frame. In short, this has a great many moments that are staggeringly detailed, with an image that can often sport the sort of live right-in-front-of-you appeal that hi-def does so well with modern fare. Subtle skin-shades, pimples, stubble, eyelashes and the gleam in the eyes, themselves – well, all of this sort of stuff is pressed up against the screen with the sort of clinical clarity that may even shock the actors. Middle and background detail does drop off, and there are times when an image that was amazingly sharp in one scene can appear to soften-up in the next, but this remains a frequently very crisp image that is sure to please.
The palette takes in various environments, from the drab, muted tones of Pittsburgh to the bright vistas of Texas, to the bleach-burned aridness of Iraq to the gaudy delights of Atlantic City, and the disc copes very well with each new setting. Colours have a push towards the green/blue side of things, but there is still plenty of pop and variety on display. The little white triangle of the Marines' tee-shirts (a wonderful target for the enemy, that, you know) poking out from beneath their khaki shirts is picked out nicely. The clothes of the other spectators. Individual elements such as neon signs, car lights, the greens of grass and bushes or the colours painted on Brandon's face at the party are also well rendered. Skin tones are immaculately presented, with a very natural sheen that incorporates the rich variety of hues that the cast, themselves, bring to the table. The reds of Koba's colours, the Marine-green of Mad Dog Grimes' mohican. In the main, we have good strong blacks that give the image a solid foundation, although there are occasions when they appear a little watered-down. Contrast, however, is reasonably consistent. There is some delicate blooming of the highlights, but this is down to the source photography that showcases the bright lights and flash-bang of the ringside. Three-dimensionality and visual depth is more than decent too, though I found this to be more apparent with the intense close-ups than with the crowd scenes.
On the downside, I did spot some aliasing taking place, and the grain, which can vary depending upon the setting of the scene, does have instances when it tends to clump up a bit and become quite noisy. Now, a part of this could be down to the way that certain scenes are lit and lensed, because O' Connor and his DOP, Masaobu Takayanagi, like to attain a sort of documentary-cum-indie feel that actually works very well with a story that lives a portion of its life in the realm of media flavouring – Youtube, news reports etc – and provides a sort of ever-moving fly-on-the-wall approach. Furthermore, I had no problem at all with DNR, or with edge enhancement.
The niggles are only slight, and Warrior looks terrific on Blu-ray.
Lionsgate's UK disc replicates the trio of audio mixes that graced the US release.
We have DTS-HD MA tracks in both 5.1 and 7.1 up front and fighting, and a DD 2.0 mix back in the corner. Both the lossless tracks offer a tremendous experience when the actual fighting begins, really emphasising the impacts and the vertebrae-crunching smackdowns, but it should be pointed out that Warrior is a very quiet and subdued film when away from the arena. Therefore, when you select a surround track you should be aware that there will be periods when things go quite reticent.
Dialogue is clean and clear, as far as the transfer goes. But it has to deal with some mumbled lines by both the leads, and the gruff, lethargic bark and rasp of Nolte. The film itself tends to duck and weave, moving in-synch with its own inner rhythm, and this is reflected by the soundscape and each of the audio mixes. You get the lulls that calm things down in-between the fights – and during these more passive interludes there really isn't a whole lot going on. The sound of slot-machines adding a gentle hubbub in the amusement arcades of Atlantic City, the easy hush 'n' rush of the tide, the subdued ambience of the diner and of Brendan's place. Even the high school Brendan teaches in lacks the usual swelling of teenage voices. All of this quiet stuff is perfectly well presented, of course, and all designed meticulously but you will notice the huge disparity that occurs when the action kicks in.
Because then, folks, the tracks come alive with surging power, the sweep of Isham's otherwise slow-burn mood-tones suddenly finding energy, depth and breadth, and the detail of cheering crowds, yapping commentators, ringside wood-clacks to warn of ten-second to possible submission, and the blast of the end-of-round klaxon. Oh, and the slamming of bodies against the canvas, the solid, meaty impacts of fists and feet, elbows and knees as they thud against bone, and the glorious chinking of the fence as ferocious combatants are hurled against it. .LFE levels that you previously weren't aware of, and possibly didn't anticipate, then drop the floor from beneath you and send out mini-shockwaves of spreading reverberation. These remain as a luscious layer of bass that thrums for just that little extra second.
The scenes set in Iraq offer up the whup-whupping of helicopter rotor-blades that move seamlessly overhead, and the harsher babble of hundreds of soldiers idling-about in camp. There is a nice sonic whip-around for when Tommy gazes at his Corps buddies in the crowd as he sits awaiting the next round, and various shouts and calls from the auditorium sing out from around the set-up. All the movement that we get across the channels is transparent and natural-sounding, both in the 5.1 and the 7.1 configurations. The extra channels of the 7.1 mix, by the way, are utilised and you can hear a difference, but even if both mixes have excellent fidelity and offer a vigorous sense of immersion when the film requires it, the surrounds aren't used quite as much, nor as aggressively as you might imagine.
Lionsgate's UK release sports all the same extras as their US edition, just minus the Digital Copy. And its a great selection too … so long as you really adore the physical side of the story and want to learn about MMA and the training that the actors underwent. And if you love the film, then that definitely includes you.
We have an interesting Commentary Track with the filmmakers, including Gavin O' Connor, fellow writer Anthony Tambakis and editor John Gilroy, as well as star Joel Edgerton, which seeks to address the evolution of the screenplay from its initial concept to the finished film. There is a lot of information dispersed throughout this, with some interesting trivia and a warm, relaxed atmosphere from the gathering. Much of this material is inevitably touched upon in the rest of the features, though we are not, ahem tapped-out by the extra exposure.
Then we get a more involving Enhanced Viewing Mode entitled Full Contact. Now this, as much as I liked it, is a like a poor man's In-Movie Experience, just without all the whizzbang stuff. Basically, the film plays in a little box down in the corner of the screen as we watch Gavin O'Connor and various other contributors, who alternate as the movie goes by, discuss the production in what amounts to a video commentary, with a few stills and behind-the-scenes moments. Occasionally, the film regains control and fills the screen, but this is still a very decent and fairly comprehensive look at what went into making Warrior from the viewpoints of the director, co-writer, sound FX guys, composer and, rather infuriatingly, Nick Nolte. Now I say infuriating because although it is obviously great to see the big guy getting involved, he doesn't actually have anything to say that is worth listening to. In fact, he rambles whenever his mouth opens. Even this wouldn't be so bad … but O'Connor and whoever else is sitting there at the time – and this is staged with the participants lined up on stools in a cage-arena – just ladle on the platitudes and the praise so thickly at times that you just wish Nolte would get up and leave, so we could return to the meaningful stuff. However, this said, I quite enjoyed listening/watching this curiously “basic” feature.
We get the real deal of a proper making-of next in Redemption: Bringing Warrior To Life. Here, we get a very fine overview of the production, from the concept and the development of the screenplay to the sets and locations, and from the intensive training to the stunts and fight choreography, and all this comes courtesy of a full raft of crew and cast. It is frank and informative and packed with great footage and insight. Very good.
In Philosophy in Combat we learn the diverse principles of the game from MMA trainer and fight guru, Greg Jackson, who became the chief advisor and trainer for the cast. He sits with actor and friend Frank Grillo as we learn how Grillo based his performance entirely upon him and his style. It is down to Jackson that we have the classical music approach, because this is how he does it too. The guy is a bit of a motormouth, even becoming so snappy-yappy during some exercise that I thought he was going to pass out, but his persona is addictive and we get to see a fair amount of training and tactics being put into practice. And he gets further kudos for using a very fit female fighter to work with during a whistle-stop demonstration later on.
Simply Believe is a tribute to Charles “Mask” Lewis Jnr, one of the co-creators of Tapout and somebody who sounds like a truly inspirational figurehead. His friends and associates, as well as the filmmakers and some fighters get to pay their respects. Gavin O' Connor freely admits that Warrior just wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for Charles Lewis. It is hard not to fall for the guy's motivational enthusiasm, which we see in some footage. O' Connor was so grateful for his help with the production, he had a role in the film specially written for him but, sadly, Lewis was killed in a road accident just before shooting began. The film is dedicated to him.
I was a bit disappointed with the Gag Reel that we are offered. I normally love these things, but this, barring one amusing reaction from Frank Grillo, is really quite poor and unfunny.
In Brother vs Brother: Anatomy of the Fight, the entire final championship bout between Brendan and Tommy is played out again, but with the added bonus of the storyboards and some training footage playing alongside it.
One Deleted Scene is included and it is certainly one for the Nolte fans. Called The Diner this excised scene gives us some deeper insight into what makes Paddy Conlan tick as he talks with Tommy. There is an optional commentary for this from Gavin O'Connor regarding its removal.
Overall, this is a good, solid selection of extras that reveal the genuine passion and commitment that everyone involved with the production had for it.
Soul of a Lion.
Warrior has some challenges to overcome with a cliché-riddled story but, spectacularly, it just seems to plough ever-onwards, absorbing them if necessary, or simply disregarding them with the sort of rambunctious abandon that I find very applaudable. The film instinctively knows that its success rests on the capable shoulders of its three leads and, without a single faltering step, all three come out fighting. Although we root for both Brendan and Tommy, there are no real surprises come the final round. Yet this does not harm the emotional pummelling that we, as well as the brawling brothers, take … and much of the joy is to be found in the sure-fire knowledge that these two will end up going toe-to-toe.
Although the film is indeed watered-down in terms of the more feral qualities of MMA, the fights are tremendously exciting and certainly punishing enough to convey the honed prowess and athleticism of those going toe-to-toe. The careful choice of music is another major bonus linking us directly to the emotional core of the story and, come the final round, you'll be totally swept-up in the exquisite agonies of two battling brothers and a father whose own pride has locked him into a cocoon. Whether you watch this for the action or to discover the dark essence of a family at war with itself, there is genuine heart and soul wielded throughout, and its effect could hit home like a thunderclap.
Lionsgate provide an often storming transfer for O' Connor's knock-out movie, and the extras are very definitely worth wading through. This is one of the best films of 2011 and, like Drive, it climbs into your skull and stays there. It's far from perfect, but it offers a thrilling and genuinely cathartic experience, the like of which we don't get all that often.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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