Posted by Matt Rosenberg on September 18, 2011 at 6:29 pm
Written and Directed by Gavin O’Connor (Pride & Glory), WARRIOR stars Tom Hardy (Inception) and Joel Edgerton as two brawling brothers in a movie focused around an MMA competition. MMA stands for ‘Mixed Martial Arts’, an extreme form of fighting that has taken our society by storm and put boxing on the back burner. Nick Nolte also stars in the film as the recovering alcoholic father, blamed by the boys for many of their lives’ troubles. Nolte makes his biggest return to the big screen since his hiccup with the law and gives an incredible performance. We can call WARRIOR this year’s The Fighter.
The best part of the Warrior is not the fighting. Let’s make that clear. Even though the fight scenes are top notch, the best part of the film is the pure emotional trauma you see in the faces of the three main characters. Hardy plays Tommy Conlon, an army veteran and a man of very few words. His character is amongst the coldest put on screen in some time. The hurt he deals with is so strong that it overcomes his personality and turns him into something almost not human in the ring. You’ll know what I mean when you actually see the fight scenes.
Edgerton plays Brendan Conlon, the older of the two and a family man, who’s house is being foreclosed on. Edgerton needs the MMA competition to win money to save his home and repair a damaged relationship with his wife. Edgerton’s performance is actually better than Hardy’s here since his character quite dynamic. You find yourself feeling terribly bad for Brendan as his character tries to save his family, deals with being a seasoned vet in the ring, and suffers from being not the favorite brother. Nolte’s performance glues it all together. As Brendan and Tommy have no idea they are on a collision course with each other, Nolte is there to keep things moving. One particular scene, when Nolte’s character gives up his sobriety, is so powerful that I was nearly in tears. Ok, there were a little. Nolte will surely be nominated for his role here. I wouldn’t be surprised if Edgerton was either.
Some websites have asked the question to whether Lionsgate knows it has a Rocky on its hands. I’m not sure I would go that far. Despite being a great movie, there are a couple things that weren’t explored by O’Connor that really took away from the film. We find little backstory about the family before it was torn apart and never see the brothers as boys. I personally was looking to see some of that. The film also ended abruptly, not really clarifying the questions you will have once the credits roll. That kind of ticked me off.
As a fight movie this film definitely lives up to the hype. The fight scenes are brutally realistic. I became so emotionally connected to both brothers that at times I was confused to who I sided with more because both brothers have noble causes they are fighting for. All I’ll say is, by the end of the film, I was in the corner of the guy who won. Former WWE champ Kurt Angle has a small role as a russian fighting brute. The connection to Ivan Drago (big Russian from Rocky IV) is pretty hilarious.
On a side note, Hardy is beyond jacked in this film. His trap muscles (aka shoulder/neck muscles) are large enough that questioning steroids wouldn’t be considered outlandish. I can only expect that his Bane, the villain in next summer’s The Dark Knight Rises, will be one scary guy.
Warrior is not as good as last year’s Oscar winning movie The Fighter, but it is definitely worth a trip to the theater.