There has been a great debate over the legalization of Mixed Martial Arts as a professional sport in New York. One of the arguments is that it is too violent still, despite the regulations put in by virtually every state athletic commission in the country. The fans and participants in the sport argue that MMA is action packed, filled with great positive messages and is less harmful than football. Millions train in one or more disciplines of the sport even in New York, and legalization is being held up by the uninformed few with a different agenda.
One way to make the sport more acceptable is to reach the masses, the casual sports fan, and Lionsgate Entertainment may just have helped that process with the upcoming film “Warrior.” Directed by Gavin O’Connor (“Miracle”), and starring Joel Egerton, Tom Hardy (“Inception”), Nick Nolte and Jennifer Morrison, the film takes viewers through the trials and tribulations of the Conlon family, who eventually use the sport and its values to overcome some of the great obstacles in their lives. One brother is a troubled Army vet, now living in Pittsburgh and looking to restart his life. Another is a Philadelphia schoolteacher beset by financial woes and trying to keep his family together. In the middle is their dad, an alcoholic former elite wrestling coach trying to piece together his life once again. it is through a sport they all had trained and participate in, MMA, that they eventually find, a common ground and a way to overcome the battles that they face in everyday life.
Now the film is probably more “Rocky” than “The Fighter,” but it also aspires to much higher goals. It is a metaphor for all the issues we have in society and the struggles everyone faces every day, battles with family, finances, friends, the economy. It is not bloody or gory, and the fight scenes, even for a casual observer of MMA, don’t glorify violence, they explain the sport and what it takes to be successful. It is the type of well planned, mainstream outreach that can swing those interested in the MMA decision in new York to the positive side. It is also a film that will appeal to a wider audience because of the story lines, especially a younger audoience who may like the mix of action and drama in a setting that is not slam bang shoot em up super-heroish. The story is very real, and reality is what many crave these days.
“Warrior” is a great example of a film that can aspire to a higher level and transcend sports. if it delivers as it could, it may be a big boost for MMA fans in New York, as well as for the careers of its very strong cast. A great piece for fight fans, or fans of a good story. Hopefully the New York politicians take the time to see it as well.