Faith-Based Audiences Embrace Lionsgate's Upcoming 'Warrior'
The relationship between Hollywood studios and faith audiences continues with Lionsgate's forthcoming WARRIOR, an intense glimpse into the world of mixed martial arts (MMA) and a portrait of a family who finds wholeness and healing after devastation by alcoholism. Faith-based leaders are responding enthusiastically to early screenings of the film, citing its artistry and urgent focus on forgiveness as the key to healing. At the film's core is a journey into the hearts of a recovering alcoholic father (Nick Nolte) and his two estranged sons (Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton) -- one fighting for his country and the other for his family, on a collision course toward each other and the pain of their difficult childhood.
"I just saw WARRIOR and it was epic," said Shawn Bolz, senior pastor of Expression 58 Church in Los Angeles. "Even though MMA fighting provides the backdrop, the true battle is the fight for forgiveness and the movie is a strong testament to the power of the family in that fight. I thoroughly recommend this movie; it is one of the best I have ever seen."
"There are undertones of faith throughout the movie, from the opening scene with the rosary hanging on the rearview mirror to talk about Jesus and recovery and forgiveness. But it mostly stays in the background," remarked Fr. Michael Diaz, pastor of St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish in Oceanside, California, adjacent to the Camp Pendleton Marine base where the film was recently screened for Marines and Marine and Naval officers. "The father's conversion, however, represents a huge act of faith."
The production of WARRIOR marks director Gavin O'Connor's return to sports-related storytelling after his acclaimed Olympic hockey movie MIRACLE, though he is quick to assert that WARRIOR is not really a sports film. "This movie was never about fighting," O'Connor explains. "It's about spiritual warfare, which may not be perceived by the eye but is a powerful reality in our lives nonetheless."
What Do You Fight For? is the central question posed by WARRIOR, and to scriptwriter Anthony Tambakis, the main answer is family. "It was important to us to make a serious pro-marriage, pro-family movie," Tambakis explains. "And therefore we don't shy away from revealing the intense struggle of family life because that's reality and also the key to growth."
The circumstances surrounding WARRIOR's development literally forced an eternal perspective on the filmmakers. Charles Lewis, the Christian founder of the prominent mixed martial arts (MMA) clothing line "Tapout," who opened the world of MMA to O'Connor and Tambakis, was killed by a drunk driver just before filming began. "Charles' spirit was definitely felt throughout the filming," says O'Connor. "Working on it helped us get through our grief. And there were far too many 'coincidences' for us to think that Charles wasn't with us." O'Connor wound up dedicating the film to Lewis.
Through his film O'Connor hopes to inspire audiences to live "warrior lives" by practicing greater love and forgiveness within their own families. This emotionally-charged drama, which is being favorably compared to the original "Rocky," makes a powerful case that no matter what has occurred in the past and no matter how dire one's circumstances in the present, reconciling with family is the key to happiness, peace and grace.