A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
If "Peaceful Warrior" were not based on a true story, I might have an easier time believing it. It's the kind of parable that is perfectly acceptable as the saga of Mr. Miyagi, but when the movie opens with the words "inspired by true events," I get edgy. I keep wondering what "inspired" means. Did Dan Millman, the author of the book that inspired the movie, really meet a man who could levitate?
What I do believe is that Nick Nolte can play a man who can levitate. Nolte sounds a note of weary clarity in the film; when he utters self-help cliches ("stop gathering information from outside yourself and start gathering information from inside"), he underplays it so well and looks so serious that we think maybe he knows this first-hand.
Nolte plays the only attendant at an all-night Texaco station that looks so old-fashioned, it could be the Fatal Gas Station in a horror movie: You know, where the sinister old scarecrow in overalls tells the kids to turn left and go down the old dirt road into the swamp. This station, however, seems well-lighted and orderly, and Nolte's character is always busy under the hood of a car. "This is a service station," he says at one point. "We offer service. There's no higher purpose."
He has such conversations with Dan Millman (Scott Mechlowicz), a character based on the author of the 1980 self-help best-seller that has inspired the movie. Dan is a gymnast on the Berkeley team, a hot-shot who's always trying out risky stuff in the gym. Once, after a nasty fall, his coach tells him: "Nobody on this planet can do what you're trying to do."