PEACEFUL WARRIOR (Victor Salva). 120 minutes. Opens Friday (July 14). For venues and times, see Movies, page 90. Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
At first there seems to be some potential in Peaceful Warrior 's story of a self-centred young gymnast who runs into a Buddhist/Taoist sage and learns a different way to be. But halfway through the film, the gymnast suffers a career-ending motorcycle accident, and what might have sailed somewhere original sinks into the familiar territory of the made-for-TV fight-back-from-tragedy flick.
Nick Nolte has the earthy gravity to keep the sage's pronouncements from sounding grasshopper-silly, but it's a one note performance, and that one note is so calm it lacks drama. Scott Mechlowicz (Euro Trip), a dull, conventional actor, plays the unsympathetic gymnast without a spark of anything that might make us like him or believe in his interest in a spiritual path.
There's nobody else in the movie. The coach, the girl and some buddies are mere placeholders and time fillers. As such, they're desperately needed, because the movie is far too slow and uneventful to fill its two-hour running time. Director Victor Salva (Jeepers Creepers) brings good visual storytelling skills to the magical/mystical moments and gymnastic displays, but there aren't nearly enough of either.
By the way, the title is metaphoric. The film has nothing to do with warriors of any stripe in any literal sense.
Scott Mechlowicz delivers a typical dull look as the Peaceful Warrior.