DVD Review - A Warrior's Heart

Kellan Lutz in "A Warrior's Heart"
Today is Kellan Lutz's birthday and I've decided to wish him a happy birthday by reviewing his latest movie released on DVD. My favorite of his performances over the years has been his work in television like The Comeback (2005) with Lisa Kudrow as well as HBO's Generation Kill (2008), but, last year, I named Kellan Lutz, as one of the sexiest stars of 2011. I think if people know him at all, they know Lutz from his role in the Twilight movies, but Lutz was actually a very busy boy in the past twelve months. He appeared in five films in 2011 along with doing his Ford models campaign. Most of his 2011 films were lead roles in independent films but all of them allowed him to show that he's better with his shirt off than both Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner combined.

Unlike with all those other movies that Lutz did last year, A Warrior's Heart actually provides him with more opportunities to act or in the least to display a wider range of emotions. I'm not so sure that director Mike Sears gives him too much rope. Even though his role was so much less in the Twilight movies, I almost feel like Lutz was given more leeway than he is here. Sears seems to restrain Lutz only because the subject matter is more serious, but I'm not convinced that doing so was all together effective.

Kellan Lutz plays Conor Sullivan, a lacrosse player and military brat who moves with his family from California to Virginia and whose father places him in a private academy under the auspices of a top-notch lacrosse coach, played by William Mapother (Lost and Justified). Conor is nicknamed Captain America, most likely due to his body. He rides a skateboard. Yet, he's put under a lot of pressure from his father and his coach. He's also super competitive with his new teammates.

He's on the fast track to becoming a star athlete and winning a lot of trophies. Things drastically change when Conor's father is sent to Iraq. It's obvious that Conor and his father have a close bond. The two even text each other. When that bond is broken, it sends Conor on a bit of a spiral.

A Warrior's Heart becomes a pretty run-of-the-mill sports drama. What gives the movie its distinction is the fact that it's about lacrosse, a sport that doesn't have a huge national presence. Major League Lacrosse is only established in six states with eight teams total, as opposed to the NFL, which has 32 teams. This movie provides insight into the sport, including its history.

Native Americans invented the game of lacrosse and a little bit of the culture of its origins comes through here. The reason it does is perhaps thanks to Adam Beach who plays Duke, a Sgt. Major in the Army and a Native American lacrosse player that Conor meets. If you've seen Flags of Our Fathers (2006) or Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (2007) or even the TV series Big Love, then you know that Adam Beach is the go-to, young actor when wanting to represent the young Native American experience, even though he's 39. He still has a boyish look to him.

However, it's that Native American experience that is needed to help Conor get out his spiral. Duke is enlisted to work with Conor to get him through his tough time, which involves some tough love. All of this is well and good. I'm simply not sure it's played to its fullest potential. Again, I get the sense that Sears is restraining himself and the actors unless he's merely following Martin Dugard's script to the letter.

I love Adam Beach. I love his presence, his demeanor, which is very calm and relaxed here. I think his personality could have made a great counter point to Lutz's character who is a bit of hothead, but there needed to be a bigger gap in order to underline that counter point. In other words, I don't think Beach and Lutz's characters were that far away. I never felt too much tension between the two, not a lot of friction.

Duke basically has to whip Conor into shape. Duke isn't a physical trainer, helping Conor to run faster or throw the lacrosse ball harder or make his ab muscles more ripped than they already are. Duke instead trains Conor emotionally, psychically almost. Yet, Duke brutally trains Conor when in reality Conor only has to go about two feet. Duke trains Conor to run a marathon when in reality Conor only needs to take a few baby steps.

There's no real journey for Conor. Dealing with what Conor has is a lot and learning about the significance of lacrosse is good, but it just felt like the punishment didn't fit the crime. Seeing Lutz display his physicality and athletic ability, which I'm sure he did all his own stunts on the lacrosse field, is also a bonus, but there wasn't a huge jump to make here. Yet, as an actor, Lutz did show some possibility here.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated PG for thematic material, some language and rough sports action.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.


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