If you’ve seen the trailer for ‘Warrior’ you know where the movie is headed in the third act but little about what takes place for the characters to get there. If you haven’t seen the trailer, don’t, just go to see the movie.
The story of a fractured family, estranged brothers Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton) torn apart by the abuse from their formerly alcoholic father Paddy (Nick Nolte), on a collision course via their entry into a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) tournament. Tommy has returned from serving in the Gulf war with the Marines, while sparring at a local gym he knocks out a contender for an upcoming MMA tournament, and the video clip of the fight is a viral hit. His brother Brendan is a happily married father and teacher at a local shool, however, he suffers financial hardship due to a crippling mortgage and starts fighting in amateur MMA fights in local bar car parks for extra cash.
Both brothers manage to gain entry to the Sparta tournament, a winner takes all promotional event with $5m in prizemoney. Not exactly the most original story, there have been comparisons to the recent ‘The Fighter’ as well as ‘Rocky’ and any number of boxing movies. However this story is told so well that any comparisons are pointless lazy journalism; this movie isn’t about the fights, although there are many of them and they are brutal, it is about these three men, and how their joint past and disparate present lives come into renewed conflict. The physical fight that they are headed towards is nothing compared to the emotional battering they can’t leave behind. Through a series of exceptional set-pieces we are able to re-construct just how and why the family became so broken; the alcoholism of Paddy is the obvious catalyst from the outset, however that is only part of the story, how the family splintered and what drove a wedge between the brothers provides the drive and tension heading into the final act.
The three main actors are all perfectly cast and deliver exceptionally believable performances. Tom Hardy is terrifying as a man on the edge, driven to fight; obviously suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, Tommy is a powder keg of tortured emotions. On this evidence he will be awesome as Bane in next years Batman finale. Joel Edgerton as Brendan is the initially more likeable of the two brothers who wants everything for his family that was denied him as a child. His is a more restrained performance but no less enthralling. He has excellent support from Jennifer Morrison as Brendans wife Tess. Nick Nolte is fantastic as the reformed abusive alcoholic father Paddy, a man who is desperate to reconcile with his two sons. It’s a career highlight from Nolte who hasn’t been in much of note for some time. He delivers a heart-breaking turn as a man battling for the forgiveness and acceptance of his sons. Award winning.
I din’t know much about director Gavin O’Connor other than ‘Pride and Glory’ (2008) which had similar themes involving a family of New York policemen. On the evidence of those two movies, his strength seems to be in enticing great performances from ensemble casts, he is definitely one to watch. My only gripe would be the Hollywood styled ending that is slightly at odds with the grittier 2 hours that precedes it, however that is a minor complaint as it still works.
Quality: 4 out of 5 stars
Any good: 5 out of 5 stars