“The Men of Warrior” Photo Book Review

Lionsgate has a new MMA film coming out in just a few weeks, and the hype train behind it is pushing full steam ahead. Just these past few weeks, we spoke with one of the stars of the film, Kurt Angle, and we also have n exclusive gallery of behind-the-scenes photos from fight choreography rehearsals for “Warrior”, courtesy of John C. Zielinski.

Today, we are taking a look at a photo book on the market, “The Men of Warrior”, which contains portraits shot by Tim Palen. The book is physically imposing, at 14 inches tall and about 11 inches wide, and is filled with 128 pages of color and black & white photos shot by Palen. As we all know by now, size does not matter (at least that’s what I tell my girlfriends). Is this photo book worth your hard earned cash or should you save your money for living your dream of buying your body weight in tacos? Hit the jump to find out!

From the Amazon.com summary – “Tim Palen is known throughout the movie marketing industry for his daring approaches to film promotion, most specifically his provocative one-sheet posters, many featuring his own photography. Examples of his work include the arresting imagery used to promote the Saw and Hostel horror franchises, and the iconic portraits he created on behalf of W, Precious, and For Colored Girls. As Paula Burr has written, Palen’s movie poster photography attempts “to boil [the image] down to the essence of the film. It is all about finding simplicity, a singular iconic image, something that evokes emotion.”

No denying it, Palen takes some great portraits that would be great to have blown up, even though I still feel as creepy looking at these shots as I do when I look at a lot of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photos (and I will explain why in a bit). The book boils down to 128 pages of five dudes in board shots posing and looking sweaty… and that’s basically it. Pick a random page and look at the photo, then turn the page and you will be greeted with another large photo of something that looks remarkably familiar from what you just saw.

When I found out about the book, I was sincerely looking forward to it and expected something very different. In my mind, I was anticipating a book full of production info and behind the scenes photos, with notes from the director and other people behind the scenes. Instead, I received a large-format coffee table book with photo after photo of fighters that are well-shot but don’t do much for me.

Don’t get me wrong, the photos themselves can stand alone on a poster and look great, but over a hundred pages of the same thing with a different face attached quickly became monotonous. There are great posed shots of Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton wrapping their hands, looking forlorn as they lean against a chain-link fence. The problem comes in that if you have seen one photo in this book, you have seen them all.

The more exciting shots come from the battle-damaged photos of the fighters, where we see the make-up artists having their time to shine. Studio shots are hard to pull off with fighters, and while technically speaking all of the photos are well-done, very few of the pictures feel genuine. The ones with hand wraps and blood have more flair to them and the fighters and actors have something to work with. The rest of the shots are nothing special, and are exactly what you see if you look at a UFC event poster. Was that the intent of the photographer? Partly, since it was from these shoots that the movie poster originated from, but there is very little soul to these shots and I feel like I am looking at photos of actors and not the characters they play. I learn nothing about any of these men other than they fight and some have tattoos. Who they are behind the hand-wraps is still a mystery to me, as is why I want to find out more about them.

The worst photo in the book has to come from Joel Edgerton’s section, where ten pages into it we got a shot of him fidgeting with his hand down his shorts. We all hear the awful comments from our friends that think MMA is just one homoerotic love-fest, and this photo makes the perfect case for that. It’s a tasteless shot that feels out of place compared to everything else in the book, but as I mentioned before, if you are a hardcore Robert Mapplethorpe fan then this is absolutely a must-buy for you.

It’s a tough call for me to say whether or not this book is honestly worth buying. The book has a suggested retail price of $29.99, but you can order “The Men of Warrior” from Amazon for only $19.49. I recommend it only if you are buying it through Amazon or at a discounted price, and would pepper-spray anyone for buying this copy at full retail cost. As a coffee table book, it makes a fine conversational piece and is fun for a few glances, but your attention will rapidly wain the deeper you get into it. I really hope that a book of production photos and notes is released for this movie as I would buy that in a heartbeat, but this one is a tough one to give more praise to.

Tom Hardy summed it up best in his foreward for this book, “This guy Tim Palen? He was ok… I didn’t mind him so much.” I don’t mind him too much either, and if you liked the UFC’s “Octagon” photo book, you will enjoy this too (even though I believe “Octagon” was a better book and I was not fond of that either). When it comes to my personal tastes, I am not a fan of portrait style photo-shoots in a sterile location, but the shots are well-done and might be something you like. Take a look at it if you find it in a book store to see if this is what you are into before opening up your wallet, just don’t look too intently at Joel Edgerton’s groin cup adjustment.

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