Director: Gavin O’ Connor
Screenplay: Gavin O’ Connor, Anthony Tambakis and Cliff Dorfman
Cast: Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Morrison and Kevin Dunn
Release Date: September 9th, 2011
While most would consider Warrior a ‘Rocky for the Third Millennium’… after some serious thought, I would have to reluctantly disagree. But that does not change the fact that Warrior is quite an entertaining film.
Tommy Riordan (Tom Hardy) is a Marine who is trying to escape the mistakes of his past. Although he tries to keep a low profile, events at a local gym make him an instant Internet celebrity… and soon after, it is revealed that he saved a group of Marines from drowning while he was serving overseas. Meanwhile, Tommy’s older brother, Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) is a family man and a physics teacher who earns extra money to pay bills and provide for his family by fighting at events in strip joints at night.When the school administration gets wind of his moonlighting activity, Brendan is suspended without pay until a hearing decides his fate. In the meantime, the bank is set to foreclose on his house within the next 90 days.With his back against the wall and obvious disapproval from his wife, Brendan decides to train full-time and take whatever fights he can get to save his family’s house.
Tommy returns home to get his father Paddy (Nick Nolte) to train him for the upcoming mixed martial arts Spartan tournament in Atlantic City, N.J. If he wins the $5 million purse, Tommy plans to give it to the wife of one of his closest friends who died in Iraq. Despite the fact that Tommy hates his father, he knows Paddy is the right man who can train him to win just as he once did when Tommy competed in scholastic wrestling . Although Tommy lives and trains with Paddy, a recovering alcoholic, he clearly lets his father know he has not, nor will he ever, forgive him for the abuse he did to his mother, who died a few years ago.
Through bits and pieces of information throughout the film, audiences learn more about Tommy’s past and the trouble he’s running from… which is the main reason he chooses to remain a loner. Tommy’s anger is not only directed at his father, but at his brother too. Their strained relationship is a result of a fourteen year absence and his disappointment that Brendan betrayed him and their mother… since he didn’t follow the plan and leave with them. Brendan stayed behind to be with Tess (Jennifer Morrison), his high school sweetheart and the girl he eventually married. Brendan, like Tommy, also has a broken relationship with his father and even refuses to allow Paddy inside his home or to even see his grandchildren.
All of these dynamics shape the movie and bring some very unexpected emotion and heart to the story. And while Warrior may be a better take on MMA than recent fighting films, it still isn’t 100% realistic. But hey! This is Hollywood! And as we all know, certain liberties have to be taken to make the movie fun and entertaining.
As for performances from the actors in this film, both Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton squeeze the maximum yield from their roles. Physically, they are impressive. The fight choreography is very well done… and surprisingly, they both do very good American accents. But most of the credit has to be given to Nick Nolte. His portrayal of a man seeking penance for the mistakes of his past is exceptionally well done, and at moments, heartbreaking. You’ll know why when the action shifts to the tournament.
The most glaring point in the film is that the plot is predictable. A little too predictable. As soon as you learn the brothers are MMA fighters, you know with almost absolute certainty the two will meet at the Spartan tournament and fight one another. However, as hackneyed the premise may be… this is a very entertaining film. As we all know, there is nothing new under the sun, so this idea has been played out many times before…but IMO, not as entertainingly as this film has done it. This film does not re-invent the fighting genre, nor does it need to. It is what it is… and what it is, is a solid, well-crafted ‘sporting drama’.
The most difficult thing audiences will have to deal with is their sympathy between the two brothers. They’ll find themselves rooting for both guys, but for very different reasons. Although some scenes are over the top and totally unrealistic from a true fighting standpoint (again… this IS Hollywood, you know.), I believe the director has done a very capable job in bringing the action and drama inherent in MMA fighting to the big screen.
Would I see this film again? Absolutely. Would I recommend it? Absolutely.
Go see it.