Peaceful Warrior

Peaceful Warrior

Film review by: Witney Seibold



            Awful. Awful. Oh dear me, awful. Rarely do I see a film so overdone, so cloying, so recklessly Inspiring-with-a-capital-I… This is the sort of bombastic overemotional drivel that one was used to seeing in made-for-TV films of the 1980s. I wanted to slam my head against the wall. Who is to blame for this? I can’t really pin this film entirely on director Victor Salva (The Jeepers Creepers movies), who is capable, actually has a visual style, and has a better knack for storytelling than many working directors. I can’t really pin in on the actors because they do give their all to the material, although I think a lot of it has to do with the casting of Nick Nolte. Can I pin it on the screenplay? Partly. But I think it was a weird synthesis of all of these elements, a massive misshapen amalgam of well-meaning auteurs and performers that produced this stinkburger.


            So here’s what I’m babbling about: The true story of Dan Millman (played by the handsome Scott Mechlowicz), a gymnast from Berkeley who hotdogs on the mat, outdrinks his friends at the bar, drives recklessly on his motorcycle, and is never alone in his bed. And yet… there’s something missing in his life. On a sleepless night, he stumbles upon an old gas station attendant (Nolte) who does nifty stunts like twenty-foot vertical leaps, and subconscious wrench-catching. Dan soon nicknames him “Socrates,” as he spews forth with that pseudo-Zen, partly-Christian, mostly-philosophical chop-suey inspiro-talk that seems to have rich well-to-do ex-Catholics so impressed these days (as marked by the inexplicable groundswell success of a film like What the #*$! Do We Know?). Dan begins to learn what a jerk he’s been, and how to be a better athlete, mostly by cutting out all his desires. Dan then shatters his leg in a motorcycle accident, and Socrates nurses his mind back to health. And guess what? He makes the Olympic team. Amy Smart (who really needs to fire her agent) plays the incidental love interest.


            Most films are stories with a message or two attached. Peaceful Warrior is messages with more messages attached. And it’s not shy about punching us in the face with its every damned philosophy. And seeing these words come out of Nick Nolte, an actor who is approaching ever more quickly a Gary Busey sort of maniac territory, is bizarre, unsettling, and incredible. At 120 minutes, it is far too long. The score could most accurately be described at John Williams on boldness drugs. I’m relieved for this: that the white man was not cured by a magical minority figure. Imagine someone like Chow Yun Fat in that role, or Morgan Freeman for that matter. Yeesh.


-June 2nd, Lionsgate

Published in: on August 7, 2008 at 8:29 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. This film is watchable for Nick Nolte who is always interesting on screen. Its amazing though,that this is the same guy who looked so good in The Prince of Tides. That was a great role for him. I’ll always remember Nolte for his star making performance in the landmark TV mini series Rich Man Poor Man back in 1976. If your a Nolte fan that is a MUST see!


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