AEOS Double Review: Win Win and Warrior

Last weekend, I got to see two GREAT movies that probably would have made my top 10 list for 2011 (or very close to it), had I not already made the list days earlier.

Win Win and Warrior are incredibly different movies, but the one thing they share in common is fighting. In Win Win, Paul Giamatti plays a frustrated high school wrestling coach. Warrior features Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton as estranged brothers, both with past mixed martial arts skills who enlist in the same fighting tournament.


Paul Giamatti, in like every other movie he plays any type of role in, shines, playing a guy named Mike Flaherty who’s a struggling attorney and coach of a pathetic high school wrestling team. He and his wife, Jackie, played by the lovely Office alum Amy Ryan, have two daughters. Mike is well aware that his job is not paying the bills, and that he needs to do something, and fast. One of his clients, Burt Young (Leo Poplar), is without a guardian and will be forced by the state to stay in a retirement home. The catch is that whoever is Young’s guardian is in for a nice sum of money each month. Mike convinces the judge that he’s the man for the job, and takes the title of Mr. Young’s guardian. The only problem is that Mike doesn’t have time between his jobs and family to watch an elderly man, so he enlists him in a retirement home anyway–convincing him that this is what the judge ruled–while still cashing in the checks.

Not much later, Young’s grandson, Kyle (Alex Shaffer), meets with Mike, and a whole new set of actions take place. Kyle takes up residence with the Flaherty’s, enrolls in the local high school, joins Mike’s wrestling team–and becomes the star wrestler–meanwhile, Mike is continuing to cash Young’s checks in secret.

It all comes together in the end, although as a viewer, I wondered how that was going to be possible as it seemed to get messier as time went by.

I really enjoyed this movie. The actors all looked like regular, every day people, and in part, made it such a believable story. The relationship between Mike and Kyle grew, almost claiming a father/son-like relationship. Mike provided for and encouraged Kyle, while Kyle gave Mike a reason to believe in wrestling again.

Thomas McCarthy both wrote this brilliant script, as well as directed the film. He’s played a variety of small roles, but his most well-known accomplishment is his screenplay for the Pixar success, Up. Win Win is only his third movie to have directed. I hope to see more from this guy in the near future.

While the story was exceptionally strong, a lot of credit has to go to the actors for developing and playing out strong characters. Bobby Cannavale, who played Mike’s best friend, Terry, was especially humorous in scenes, breaking the drama up a little bit. Giamatti and Ryan worked well together as husband and wife, and parents wanting to always do the right thing, but sometimes failing. Alex Shaffer might have been the stand-out in the cast, playing a realistically troubled, yet kind and grounded teenager.

Win Win was a highly underrated movie for 2011. It’s definitely worth a watch.

Win Win = 4/5 eyes on screen.


Initially, I wasn’t going to see Warrior. I didn’t fine The Fighter from 2010 entirely compelling, and wasn’t up for another fighting movie. But from the excellent reviews I was reading on the movie, I decided to give it a chance, and I couldn’t be more thankful for it.

I am officially a Tom Hardy fan. I’ve seen him in Inception and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and his role in Warrior is exceptional–and surprisingly left off awards lists. Between an incredibly convincing American accent, and playing such a complicated character, Hardy went in for the kill in Warrior. Stripped of any kind of happy demeanor, being estranged from both his now sober father, Paddy (Nick Nolte), and older brother, Brendan (Joel Edgerton), Hardy’s character Tommy comes home and announces to his father that he’s interested in taking up fighting again. He gets his dad to train him, but reminds him that there would be only training–no affection, connection, familial ties, forgiveness–just training.

On the other end of the spectrum, Edgerton plays the dead opposite type of character–a high school physics teacher who’s married, has a family and friends. But with facing financial issues and the ugly possibility of his house foreclosing, Brendan, too, takes up fighting again, asking his friend Frank Campana (Frank Grillo) to train him.

Warrior is filled to the brim with spot-on performances, including both Frank Grillo as Brendan’s trainer, and Jennifer Morrison as Tess Conlon, Brendan’s wife. Nick Nolte hits just the right rhythm as the failed father trying to win back his sons. We feel for his character throughout the entire movie, even as we learn that his past is what drove both his sons from him. But he’s changed now and he wants his sons to know that–only they don’t care anymore. Paddy listens to self-help tapes and claims multiple times that he’s 1000 days sober, even turning down a drink from Tommy. Paddy again tries to connect with Tommy, only to be given one of the biggest verbal smackdowns of how he’s old and unneeded. He hits the brink of suicide, throwing in the towl. Tommy finds beer bottles all over the floor the next morning, Paddy crying while mindlessly chanting random lines from self-help tapes. It’s then that Tommy finally forgives his father.

The movie had a couple of those great moments, like when Tommy forgave his father, that brought Warrior full circle. The dramatic moments were well-paced and the fighting scenes were rough, but choreographed well enough to not appear like it was too easy or too hard to win.

Warrior is a moving, compelling, and heartwarming movie that relies not on the sport as its center, but a broken family struggling to mend itself together. It has a lot of heart, and a lot of great moments.

Warrior = 4/5 eyes on screen

6 thoughts on “AEOS Double Review: Win Win and Warrior

  1. Tom Hardy has come out of nowhere for me and become one of my fast favourite actors. Despite me already having seen him in The Take… I didn’t recognise it was the same guy in Inception!

    That being said, I haven’t seen Warrior yet, though hopefully will rectify that soon. It didn’t do well in the box office here, so kinda slipped out of cinemas really really quickly.

    If there’s any young actor out there right now who might need to be the next Bond… can I please vote for Tom? Cheers, thanks, ta!


    • Same here! I think he is wondeful 🙂 Yep – he is the funny guy who plays Eames, the forger on the team. He was pretty funny in it!

      Yeah, Warrior didn’t do the greatest in theaters – which is stunning, because if it were by word of mouth, I would expect more people to have seen it. Either way, I wasn’t interested in seeing it for a while, but I’m really glad I finally saw it–it’s really a great movie.

      Um, yeah, what a great suggestion! That idea cracks me up, but I think he’d be great!


  2. I absolutely loved Win Win. Such an excellent movie, Paul Giamatti is so good at playing these type of flawed yet amiable character! Oddly, it would push out Warrior off my top 10 if I was to re-do it now 😉

    As for Warrior, solid flick with three very good central performances. It was overly predictable and a bit corny at times but it comes with the genre.


    • Thanks for the recommendation, Castor! I really enjoyed the film and thought it was excellent as well. I’m of the belief that Giamatti cannot give a bad performance. Haha – gotta love seeing great movies after you make your top ten list!

      Yeah, Warrior was great because of its performances, hands down. I think Moneyball is one of those sports movies that refuses to be like the genre.


  3. Have yet to see Win Win, though it is on the list.

    As for Warrior, while there was great acting (how could you go wrong with such a strong cast) it was, in my opinion, way overrated and predictable/totally unrealistic. Belief can only be suspended so many times. And they just had to make the two brothers make it to the final round.

    From a filmmaking perspective, I thought the style was overly lazy. I understand the use of handheld camerawork in an action scene to give the audience the feeling that they are there, but honestly, it would have been okay to dust off the tripod at least once in a while.

    As far as awards are concerned, while this film certainly won’t win best picture, it must be a contender for most rack-focus shots in a feature film. Ever.

    P.S. On a positive note, the performances by Nolte and Hardy were very good. The scenes at the casino were very compelling.


    • Is the list ever growing still? I know mine still is! Definitely keep Win Win on it. It’s one of those movies that got very little attention, but is worth watching.

      I can definitely see where you’re coming from in terms of the unrealistic plot/story line of Warrior. I think most sports films walk that line of coincidences and predictability, because when you think about it, without a certain outcome or two, you really don’t have a big story to tell–so your options are pretty limited when it comes to making a sports movie that reflects any kind of realism or isn’t predictable. Although, I will say that Moneyball did a nice job of separating itself from the sports movie genre, but it was also a interesting adaptation of the book. Read that book and you’ll find out quickly how different the film is from the book.

      I didn’t think of the film from the camera’s view, but that’s a good point. I don’t always pick up on camera work unless I see something really pointed or cool (perhaps the one thing I liked about SH2 was some of the visuals).

      I would love for Warrior to get a couple nominations in the acting department, but I think it’s safe to say it’s getting NONE. It made no showing at the SAGs, BAFTAs, Golden Globes, or anything else considered big. I don’t have any expectations for it at any awards ceremonies. I just wish Nick Nolte could get some love in the supporting actor department.

      Yeah, that scene at the casino (and then the one following) had to be some of the best scenes out of the film. Thanks for reading, Matt! I always love getting feedback from people.


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