Director Gavin O’Connor's (Miracle) new MMA drama Warrior opens in theaters today (read our review). The film works to bring a sense of gritty reality in its depiction of the mixed martial arts culture - while celebrating the sport as valuable and, in the world of this story, therapeutic.
In fact, O'Connor does not particularly care for the term "sports movie." For him, he crafted a drama which uses an MMA tournament as the backdrop. The film in many ways works to address, work with or against (and in some cases reject), the standard tropes of a typical sports film.
One of the characters that we expect to see in a movie about fighters is the gruff, wizened and knowledgeable coach. The man-behind-the-man as it were. With actor Frank Grillo's portrayal of trainer Frank Campana, the film once again breaks with the standard stereotypes and brings a fully realized human being to the screen - where another movie might just offer a caricature. Campana is depicted as a man who is at once pragmatic and inspired, a guy with enough strength and genuine optimism to push others to stretch beyond what is probable into the highest reaches of what is possible for them.
We had the chance to interview Grillo recently to talk about working with MMA legend Greg Jackson in preparation for his role as the man who gives Bredan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) the chance to, literally, fight for his family.
Two brothers face the fight of a lifetime - and the wreckage of their broken family - within the brutal, high-stakes world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting in Lionsgate’s action/drama, WARRIOR. An ex-Marine haunted by a tragic past, Tommy Riordan (Tom Hardy) returns to his hometown of Pittsburgh and enlists his father (Nick Nolte), a recovered alcoholic and his former coach, to train him for an MMA tournament awarding the biggest purse in the history of the sport. As Tommy blazes a violent path towards the title prize, his brother, Brendan (Edgerton), a former MMA fighter unable to make ends meet as a public school teacher, returns to the amateur ring to provide for his family. Even though years have passed, recriminations and past betrayals keep Brendan bitterly estranged from both Tommy and his father. But when Brendan’s unlikely rise as an underdog sets him on a collision course with Tommy, the two brothers must finally confront the forces that tore them apart, all the while waging the most intense, winner-takes-all battle of their lives.
Interview with Warrior‘s Frank Grillo:
Gavin O’Connor directs a cast that includes Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, and Jennifer Morrison.
Warrior is in theaters now.
Follow me on Twitter @jrothc