Verdict: 4.5 / 5
At first glance, Warrior seems to be just another sports movie, chock-full of clichés with a typical story and predictable results. Not surprising, Warrior does have a lot of the above-mentioned cliché. But the fact that Warrior has rocketed to one of the top 250 rated movies of all time on IMDB, suggests that looks can be deceiving.
Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy – Inception, This Means War) comes home from the war, and recruits his estranged father, Paddy, to train him for a MMA tournament. Tommy doesn’t like his father, in fact, he despises him, but he knows that at least his father was a good coach.
Brendan Conlon, Tommy’s older brother, has issues of his own. Between him and his wife, they work three jobs to keep the family afloat. Being a former UFC fighter, Brendan starts fighting again to raise more money. In the process, he gets suspended from the school he teaches at. Knowing that he is a good fighter, he looks up his former coach and friend Frank (Frank Grillo) and starts training again to raise funds through fighting. This puts strain on his marriage.
Paddy is a recovering alcoholic and earnestly tries to win his two sons back. It’s a struggle and you never really know whether he will be forgiven by either of his sons, all the while fighting his own demons.
Through a series of events, both brothers get into the tournament and end up facing each other in the finals.
As stated earlier, Warrior seems to be filled with typical sports movie clichés – both bothers’ lives are in dire straits, the drunken father trying to make right, the training montages and the inevitable fighting. Yet, somehow this movie seems to effortlessly transcend it all through great directing and powerhouse performances by all the actors, and turns into something very special.
The movie doesn’t fall into the flash-back trap, and through the dialogue, one makes out much of the history between the two brothers and what transpired with the father. O’Connor’s pacing in the storytelling is near perfect.
The fighting is brutal. The brilliantly choreographed fights are absolutely relentless and through all the injuries sustained by both actors, you can see that they did not hold back. And the final stand-off between the two brothers is one of the best scenes I have seen. It is sublime film-making, raw and pure.
Tommy’s anger is ever-present and the brooding frustration is played out to perfection by Hardy. He is simply brilliant in this role. Brendan is the more controlled of the two brothers, and he is the underdog in the tournament. Edgerton’s understated performance hasn’t garnered as much praise as Hardy’s, but he is inspiring. Nolte’s performance is spot-on and ends up being one of the best of 2011.
Warrior is one of those rare films that come along, and simply blows you away. If you have ever had something worth fighting for in your life, then watch this film. My pick for 2012!