Film Review: A Warrior's Heart

Nixon <i>and </i>Reagan would have loved this movie.

There are bad-asses and then there are bad-asses, but in A Warrior’s Heart Conor Sullivan (Kellan Lutz) just can’t seem to stay out of trouble. The kid likes to fight, you see, especially in the middle of lacrosse games. Sure, brawling in sports is nothing new, but here it’s a particular offense because the game of lacrosse is viewed in the most sacrosanct way—not just a sport but the very test of a man, a metaphor for life as it should be lived.

Conor’s dad, Seamus (Chris Potter), was a hero of the game and wants nothing more than Junior to succeed in it, especially when he is shipped to Iraq, where he is killed. Instead of taking inspiration from Papa, Conor acts out, battering field opponents with his stick, and making mucho trouble for his girlfriend, Brooklyn (Ashley Greene), who happens to be the daughter of a coach who has taken a real dislike to this no-good kid. Conor gets shipped off to an Indian reservation—Native Americans, it will be remembered, invented the game after all—where, under the tough-love tutelage of a Marine named—wait for it—Duke Wayne (Adam Beach), he gets schooled in the right way to be and play.

As part of the pretty scenery of the Twilight series, Lutz and Greene have a cinematic reunion here which may have both of them wishing they still had fangs stuck in their necks. A Warrior’s Heart is a shameless morass of flag-waving clichés and brutal sentiment which would make fit viewing at the next G.O.P. convention. Simply put, director Michael F. Sears and screenwriter Martin Dugard are a marriage made in cornball heaven; no hackneyed trope is too familiar for them to throw into their dreary stew. Seamus’ death occurs as he is texting Conor, against an Iraq battle backdrop that looks like a music-video. At one point, a frustrated Conor calls Duke a “crazy Indian,” and is then subjected to a stern lecture about Native American legacy and dignity. It would have been more effective if Beach were a better actor, but it does offer some respite from the rest of the film’s white-bread ethos, which includes yet another of those mothers (Gabrielle Anwar) who more resemble the young protagonist’s sister. Ladies playing moms of near-adults: Cut that Demi Moore hair!

There is, however, ample opportunity for Lutz to show off his major asset—his torso. He pouts prettily, and gets a big, flashy scene in which, in a rage, he deletes Daddy’s final message to him, and commits that ultimate act of utter despair, trashing his cell-phone. (Once upon a time, movie heroes smashed their hands through windows.) Greene works hard at rebellious spunkiness, getting helpful advice from a girlfriend like “Your heart will know who the right guy is for you.”

Sears is surprisingly sparing in actual footage of lacrosse games, but this is perhaps explained in the big competitive climax: It’s just not that photogenic a sport—lots of longueurs between ball-catching—or maybe it’s just the way in which the hapless Sears has presented it.