Peaceful Warrior (2006)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Sports Drama  |   Release Date - Jun 2, 2006 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 120 min.  |   Countries - Germany, United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Derek Armstrong

You wouldn't guess from the title that Peaceful Warrior is about a gymnast. However, you might guess it's about a journey toward self-actualization that's heavily influenced by eastern philosophy. The film shares many elements with an inspirational sports story like The Karate Kid, with Nick Nolte in the Mr. Miyagi role and Scott Mechlowicz playing Daniel-sahn -- his character's name is actually Dan, and Nolte actually subjects him to scrubbing toilets and other menial tasks, in Mr. Miyagi's "wax on, wax off" school of mental discipline. What Peaceful Warrior doesn't have is The Karate Kid's heart. The key to a movie like this is that you have to like the main character. He may be flawed in his approach to his goals, but he's essentially a good guy. Not so with Dan Millman, who's kind of a prick. He's an Olympics-or-bust hopeful who doesn't seem to care which friends he sabotages on his way to that dream. Naturally, he learns something over the course of his exposure to his eternally wise mentor, but his outlook on the world doesn't shift as radically as the film thinks it does. Millman never seems worthy of the attention of Nolte's character (whom he dubs "Socrates"), especially since one of Socrates' defining traits is his devotion to noble purposes. This is not to say Victor Salva's film is without its charms. The filmmaking showcases plenty of mature narrative technique, and it's actually funny in the moments when it isn't taking itself too seriously. Ultimately, if Peaceful Warrior is worth seeing, it's because of Nolte, who was born to play a grizzled gas station attendant with lightning-quick reflexes and a total awareness of self. The charming Amy Smart, however, is wasted in a secondary role that could have easily been written out of the script.