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“Warrior” – Review (POSITIVE)

September 11, 2011

Are fighter movies popular again? I’ll admit it, I wasn’t holding my breath for this movie when I first saw the trailer. After last Falls fighter drama, “The Fighter”, I wasn’t expecting another one being released relitively in the same season a year later. It seems hard to compare recent fighter films to the great ones like “Rocky” or “Raging Bull”, but surprisingly “Warrior” might be the closest one. While the substance of the story remains similar to those films, it’s acting & heartfelt characters make this movie a great watch, especially the performances of Tom Hardy & Nick Nolte.

Tommy (Tom Hardy), the youngest son of an alcoholic former boxer, Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte), returns home to Pittsburgh after 14 years, not looking for forgiveness or reconciliation from his sober father, he comes asking his father to strickly train him for competition in a mixed martial arts tournament. Meanwhile in Philadelphia, high school physics teacher, ex-UFC fighter, father, husband, & older brother of Tommy’s, Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) has hit some troubles. Along with his wife (Jennifer Morrison) & two daughters, the family is facing forclosure on their home. Behind his wifes back, Brendan participates in local fights on the side to make ends meet. The high school learns of his moonlighting fights and suspend him without pay. Without any other option, Brendan is given an opportunity to get back into training, and enter into the same competition Tommy’s fighting for, to win $5 million dollars. But, will this fight bring to brothers together?

The elements of this movie, I’ll admit it are very familiar to other past fight dramas. Fighting for family, fighting for others, fighting to regain family respect, etc. We’ve seen these in countless movies. However, there are some turns, as the focus on Tommy’s character seems to be the more interesting one, by adding the subplot of his time serving in Iraq, and what he did over there making wave just in time for the competition. I liked that apporach, it made his mean character, which you really didn’t feel for that much in the beginning, start to empathize, and really care for him. Director, Gavin O’Connor, has certainly taken the liberty to make a familiar sub-genre, and try different things, while retaining the familiarity of it.

The performances are amazing in this movie. Tom Hardy is gritty and real, you can tell he put a lot into this role, physically & emotionally. He seems like a versatile actor, his 2008 performance in “Bronson” is simply one of the best (overlooked) performances of the decade, and I’m delighted that he’s starting to get recognized as a lead actor. If he doesn’t get an Oscar nomination for this movie, I just don’t know what to think about the Academy in terms of who deserves to be nominated & who doesn’t. That said, the supporting acting by Nick Nolte, was some of the best work I’ve seen him do in quite a long time. It’s not everyday you can say that Nick Nolte was moving and made you shed a tear. Joel Edgerton wasn’t bad, he didn’t leave much of an impression on me as Hardy or Nolte did, but he was good.

While the film does take the opportunity to borrow the usual sport drama cliches, and becomes a tad predictable at times, it holds off on a lot of that, because all the attention is on the characters, and what drives them to get to where they need to be. You root for Brendan because you want him to save his home, but you’re also rooting for Tommy, because he could find solace in his life. I never rooted for characters equally like how I did when watching “Warrior”“Warrior” is sure to be in my top 10 for 2011’s best and I hope to see it pursue in the Oscar race for acting & direction.


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