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Peaceful Warrior Reviews

Horror specialist Victor Salva's too-reverent adaptation of Dan Millman's 1980 self-help memoir The Way of the Peaceful Warrior gives equal time to New Agey psychoprattle and the voyeuristic spectacle of college gymnasts putting their tight-as-a-drum physiques through sweaty, intricate exhibitions of precision physical prowess. The result is something close to a textbook example of how not to visualize spiritual principles of the "be here now" variety. It opens as cocky, womanizing, ferociously competitive UCLA gymnastic jock Dan (Scott Mechlowicz) dismounts after an arduous routine, only to have one leg shatter into a million tiny pieces. It's only a dream, but it unnerves Dan enough to get him out of bed — which he's sharing, true to his nature, with his best friend's girl — and send him on a 3AM run. That run takes Dan to a gas-station convenience store, where an enigmatic encounter with the philosophizing owner (Nick Nolte) sets him on a path of spiritual awakening filled with arduous tests, painful setbacks and a radical reordering of priorities that will test him sorely. The gas-station guru, whom Dan dubs "Socrates," is an enlightened master of Asian mind-body disciplines and takes it upon himself to awaken the unreflective Dan to the way of the peaceful warrior, who engages life fully and reflectively every minute of every day. Dan at first sees the heightened focus he learns at Socrates' knee as another weapon with which to humiliate competitors, but is forced to reassess every aspect of his life after a bone-shattering motorcycle accident. Told he'll be lucky to walk, let alone compete again, Dan resolves to prove everyone — his doctors, his coach (Tim DeKay), his skeptical teammates — that mind can overturn matter, even if the matter is a fragmented femur held together by metal pins. Socrates' aphorisms are all steeped in undeniable truth: There is "never nothing going on," mental trash does need to cleared out, people do overthink themselves into hopeless emotional paralysis. But wrapping a solid truth in cotton-candy cliches doesn't make it accessible — it makes it sound stupid, even when Nolte brings every iota of his considerable down-to-earth gravitas to bear on such pop aphorisms. And it must be said that Salva's more-than-slightly creepy obsession with nubile, half-clad young men, evident in films ranging from CLOWNHOUSE (1989) to JEEPERS CREEPERS (2001), really isn't in sync with Millman's message of metaphysical uplift.