Director: Gavin O'Connor
Cast: Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo, Kevin Dunn
Plot: Two brothers; Brendan, a schoolteacher trying to make ends meet, and Tommy, a former Marine haunted by the war he left behind, participate in a mixed martial arts tournament with a $5 million prize at stake. In between them is their estranged father Paddy, a former alcoholic who is trying his best to reconcile with his two sons.
Review: I'm not a fan of mixed martial arts (MMA), but the good thing about Warrior is that you don't have to be a fan to enjoy it.
The MMA element is in fact a background to the bigger story at hand: an emotional drama about family. In Warrior, we have two brothers who are as different from each other as night and day, both driven by different reasons and even fight differently in the ring.
Younger brother Tommy is resentful of his father, but chooses him to help him train for the tournament, as long as they only talk about the training and nothing else. You can see the darkness in Tommy's eyes, like there's a rage in him, and it shows when he beats down his opponents in the ring brutally. And yet, Tommy isn't a bad person really, he does have some good in him, as you'll see in some of the poignant moments of the film.
Older brother Brendan on the other hand, is a family man whose house is about to be foreclosed by the bank unless he pays up. Despite objections from his wife Tess, who worries for his safety, Brendan signs up for the tournament and ends up becoming a big underdog. Unlike Tommy, Brendan is an affable man and very easy to like.
Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton are superb in their respective roles. Hardy put on several pounds of muscle to become an intimidating fighter, and the way he beats up his opponents swiftly and violently is just brutal yet fun to watch. But more than that, Hardy puts in a great performance as a man evading his dark past while trying to ignore the big family issues in front of him. Edgerton is also great as the likable Brendan, who loves his family and would do anything for them, even if it means getting hurt badly. You would probably have a hard time choosing which brother to root for.
But the show stealer has to be Nick Nolte as their father Paddy. Paddy had walked out on the family a long time ago, and now has turned over a new leaf. But he has a hard time convincing his boys that he's a changed man. In one scene, when he succumbs to his past addiction, Nolte is just unbelievably real in the character. He's just awesome to watch and deserves an Oscar nomination for this.
As for the fight scenes itself, it's quite cool to watch. However it's slightly marred by the close up shots that don't allow us to see who's kicking who or doing what at times. However, director Gavin O'Connor (who cameos as the tournament's promoter) and cameraman Masanobu Takayanagi make up for it by using different lighting to differentiate the two brothers' scenes. With Tommy, it's dark and grainy shades while Brendan's scenes are bright and colourful. Very ingenious.
Warrior is a great film that everyone should check out. I had been looking all year for a film that scores in nearly every aspect. Warrior may very well be that film. Highly recommended. (4.5/5)