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Peaceful Warrior (2006)

July 25, 2012


MY CALL:  Focusing on clearing one’s mind of all things tarnished in life, this is an inspiring sports-meets-philosophy story aimed at younger viewers (say, 12-25) but appropriate for all—all older than 12 anyway.  IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCHRudy (1993) for drama, The Replacements (2000) for fun.  SIDEBAR:  Not a lot of gymnastics movies that weren’t made for TV or straight-to-DVD (or video back in the day).  But if that’s what you’re looking for, here’s what I’ve got: Stick It (2006; best suited for girls who still do gymnastics and/or girls under 25), Gymkata (1985; an idiotic action movie that truly might have been written to inspire college drinking games), Final Destination 5 (2011; featuring the most horrifying gymnastics death ever imagined—that’s really all it has to do with gymnastics, though).

[Based on a true story.]

When you take for granted what you can do, you get sloppy in life.  “Everyone tells you what to do and what’s good for you. They don’t want you to find your own answers.  They want you to believe theirs…I want you to start gathering information from outside yourself and start gathering from the inside…People are afraid of what’s inside, and that’s the only place where they’re gonna’ find what they need.”

Dan Millman (Scott Mechlowicz; Eurotrip) is a cocky, straight-A, lady’s man gymnast on his way to the Olympic qualifiers.  He trains 7 days a week, 50 weeks a year, but despite all this “hard work” it doesn’t seem so difficult for him.  But he lacks the hubris to simply expect to qualify.  He does everything that a champion does—practices devoutly, attempts that which has not yet been done, desires greatness—all things except for one: believing in himself.

When we meet “Socrates” (Nick Nolte; Warrior, Zookeeper), an otherwise nameless gas station attendant nicknamed by Dan, he is presented as something teasingly supernatural.  Surrounded by scenes representing dream sequences, we are left to question whether ours are the eyes of a little birdy or those of Dan’s dreaming perspective.

Later Socrates seems to have powers of zen awareness, astral projection and telepathy that he can even confer to Dan.  At this point, it becomes apparent that Socrates’ abilities are a figment of Dan’s imagination—if not Socrates in his entirety, perhaps representing Dan’s inner self rather than an inspiring life coach.  Socrates challenges this haughty but fearfully sleep-deprived athlete with the question of what he’ll do if he doesn’t make the Olympic team, a mere notion that plagues Dan.  While first met with resistance, Dan comes to accept some of Socrates’ challenges, the results of which are innocently amusing.

Why did he throw him in the water?
To clear his mind.

After attempting Socrates’ abstinent training regimen, he becomes impatient, even angry, and quits.  Shortly thereafter he rushing to practice and gets into a bad motorcycle accident in which his femur shattered into 17 pieces, along with his dreams, and his greatest prognosis is that he “should” be able to walk again.  The remainder of the movie illlustrates his limping struggle to chase his dream.

From this….to this.

Most of this film works, but certain elements do not.  His romantic interest, Joy (Amy smart; Road Trip, Crank), is poorly written into the story and seems to appear and disappear conveniently with little synthesis.  She represents his only female interest that isn’t based on lust—but while it is nice to see Dan maturing from one-night stands—this was neither necessary nor substantial given other events in the movie.  Her deletion from the story would likely go unnoticed.

Not that I’d ever complain about seeing Amy Smart…

Director Victor Salva has done a lot of horror writing/directing (the Jeepers Creepers series, including the upcoming third installment).  But he also wrote and directed Powder (1995), a mystical movie with some elements akin to horror.  This likely influenced the mystic nature of Socrates.  Such a shame though, in my opinion, that a story about giving up control in order to be “free” was presented by a rather formulaic storyline; another aspect that didn’t work for me, but likely passed unnoticed by those who don’t “over-analyze” movies like self-serving reviewers like me.  😉

A third thing—and please don’t mistake this for harping, just analyzing—is that the guardian angel nature of Socrates felt like it simply lacked the relative maturity and reality of like-minded tales aimed at adults.  Rudy (1993) didn’t need a dream-like archangel to spell things out for him.  He realized and chose his path himself…and he managed to get a lot of grown-ass men to cry in the locker room “Jersey Scene.”  Mysticism can be utilized without some of the silliness of the devices of this film.  That’s not to say that it wasn’t cute or followed by a snicker or two, but that it didn’t match the possible maturity I felt was appropriate for this particular story.  Again, not hating, just deconstructing a bit.  It gives me something to write about.

By the end, this movie makes us recognize a little of ourselves (even if a younger self) in our semi-hero and, naturally, we feel good about it, the movie and ourselves.  While I think this was intended to inspire younger viewers (say, 12-25), there is no reason that adults wouldn’t enjoy it as well.  I’d order a pizza, pop some kettlecorn and make a family night out of it.

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