Directed by Gavin O’Connor. Starring Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Jennifer Morrison, Nick Nolte.
As typical sports films go this one takes the formula route. Hardship, trials, family trauma, personal angst, inspiration. Warrior has it all. But with a bit of a twist. That and some pretty brilliant performances make Warrior a moving and solid film.
Hardy plays Tommy Conlon, the angry and abandoned son of Paddy Conlon (Nolte) who returns to his drunk father’s life after his mother passes away. In need of cash (but not for himself) he wants his ex-war veteran dad to train him in the form of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). His now sober dad is aching to make amends with him and his other son Brendan (Edgerton) but only gets guilt-tripped and brickbats.
Brendan is a high-school physics teacher with a wife (Morrison), two kids and a mortgage he can’t pay off. Trying to make a living out of fighting (the family legacy) in parking lots of strip clubs he decides to go the distance and train to win an MMA Gran Prix tournament called Sparta. Guess who else is participating.
Yes there are montages of training and rounds of bouts and emotions running high. But in the mix of formula there is a story of heroism; two actually. There is sibling animosity, a father trying to win back his family, a brother fighting for his house and family, a soldier running away from his past and pulverising opponents in the ‘cage’ as a way to let it all out. In a way they’re all trying to break out of the cages they’ve built for themselves.
Tom Hardy stands out for his angry man persona, his bitterness for his father shining through a cold, hard and merciless performance. At points you wonder whether his character is high on steroids and pure carnal rage. Edgerton’s more subdued performance isn’t weak though. He is the lion with a lamb’s heart. And Nolte, sometimes mumbling, sometimes too emotional to talk, is excellent. Taking all the shit from his sons but trying to be there for them, you can’t help but sympathise with his character and see the inner battle he is fighting. Perhaps it’s a war more hurtful than the ones his sons are fighting in the ring.
At two hours nineteen minutes, Warrior is a tad long but well-worth every second. It will move you to tears. I enjoyed this one more than Christian Bale’s The Fighter.