(Nolte as Four-Leaf Tayback in Tropic Thunder. Photo courtesy of IMDb.)
Could it be? An MMA movie that doesn’t involve an "underground fighting league" or one-armed combat? And it stars the lovably grizzled Nick Nolte? Color us interested. MMA Payout passes along this Variety.com report:
Nolte plays an ex-Vietnam vet boxer-turned-steel mill worker whose family was torn apart by his alcoholism; the now-sober and remorseful dad welcomes back his youngest son (Hardy) and trains him to compete in a mixed martial arts tournament. He and his older brother, played by Edgerton, are on a collision course in the ring.
O’Connor wrote the script with Anthony Tambakis, and the helmer will produce with brother Greg O’Connor.
Okay, so shades of Ken and Frank Shamrock, maybe, with the brother vs. brother thing. But here’s another sign that the movie could be worth a damn: Director Gavin O’Connor, who previously helmed Miracle and Pride and Glory, was the executive producer of The Smashing Machine, the landmark documentary about MMA cautionary tale Mark Kerr. So he knows the sport, and would likely bring an authentic point-of-view to his new project. Back in October, O’Connor gave a more detailed synopsis of the film to Premiere:
"The movie is about two estranged brothers that haven’t seen each other in 14 years, and they come back together and they are both mixed martial arts fighters. One of them, when we meet him, is a schoolteacher who is married. He has three little girls. His wife had a heart transplant so he is massively in debt. He starts fighting in what is called “Smokers.” They [happen] all over the country. There are guys [fighting] in parking lots in cages, and you can walk away with a couple of thousand dollars. The other brother we discover is AWOL from the Marines, and he has been arrested in Mexico and thrown in prison. Being a gringo in a Mexican prison wasn’t very easy, so he had to defend himself. The guy is an animal and was kicking everyone’s ass, and he became known as the king of this prison. Some guy got him out, and he traveled all around Mexico fighting these underground fights. And he ends up leaving there and going to see his father. Fourteen years before, he and his mother had left while the other brother and the father stayed. The father was an alcoholic and an emotionally abusive man, a Vietnam vet, ex-Golden Gloves fighter who taught his kids how to fight at a very young age. And the kid, Tommy, goes back to see his dad. Tommy is drinking now and [is a] pill popper. He comes home, and his father is a thousand days sober and is living a very different life. The story is about healing and forgiveness. There is a tournament called “Sparta” for the heavy weight championship of the world of mixed martial arts. It is a $5 million purse, and it is a 16-man grand prix tournament. And these two brothers are on a collision course to fight each other for the heavy weight championship of the world. And everything about their relationship, their past and their future is dealt with by communicating through violence."
A 16-man tournament with a $5 million purse, "for the heavy weight championship of the world"? Sounds like quite a fantasy. But who knows — maybe Warrior will be the first MMA flick that gets it right.