I remember when I first saw the trailer for the new Mixed Martial Arts flick Warrior nearly three months ago, and believe me I was hooked. Having grown up in a home with two older brothers, I could relate to the magnitude of the premise rather easily. And not only did I find the concept of the film intriguing, but the fact that some of Hollywood's best young actors (Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton) were anchoring the cast made it that much more appealing.
Warrior is primarily set in present day Pennsylvania (both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia). At first we're introduced to Tommy Reardon (Hardy) who shows up unexpectedly at his father's doorstep. This meeting marks the first time the pair has seen each other since Tommy and his mother walked out on the family years ago. Paddy Conlon (Nolte) is a recovering alcoholic approaching 1,000 days of sobriety, yet his haunted past embodies the massive amounts of psychological abuse he caused to his wife and two children. Across the state in Philadelphia, Paddy's other son Brendan Conlon (Edgerton) is a Physics teacher who has married his high school sweetheart and raised two little girls. However, heart complications to his youngest daughter ultimately set the family back financially. Struggling to make ends meet Brendan returns to what he knows best, MMA fighting. When the underdog finds his way into a 16 man winner takes all tournament, Brendan must square off against his estranged brother Tommy for the $5 million dollar cash prize.
Director Gavin O'Connor once again delivers an epic sports tale that reaches far beyond the cage these men fight in. O'Connor, who also scored big with his portrayal of the 1980 U.S./Russia hockey showdown in Miracle, elegantly crafts a wonderful story of determination, redemption, and forgiveness. Warrior's lead actors Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton resonate on screen and play their characters to perfection. Hardy as the dark and mysterious war stricken soldier with unimaginable demons in his closet, and Edgerton as the loving father desperate to do whatever it takes to provide for his family. It's remarkable to see these two men blossom from a terrible situation into polar opposites, illustrating that tragedy touches us all differently. It's also worth mentioning that Hardy's character Tommy is unquestionably one of the meanest characters I've ever seen on the big screen. Despite the glaring performances from the film's leading characters, perhaps Nick Nolte shines the most. Nolte, who may actually earn some awards season recognition for his role, is flawless as the born again father who's seen the error in his ways and is longing for forgiveness from his two sons. His range is uncanny as you see a wide variety of emotions from his character.
Although Warrior contains brilliant acting, there are a few noteworthy downfalls to the film. For starters, there are an abundance of cliche aspects to the movie that cannot be overlooked. There are plenty of overdone elements drawn from pictures like Rocky and The Fighter. Furthermore, Warrior often at times lacks believability, but at the end of the day who doesn't love an underdog story?
For any fan of sports films and gripping family dramas, Warrior will easily satisfy. The two hour plus runtime zips by thanks to O'Connor's ability to maintain a compelling story. I had high expectations for this movie and I still went home mesmerized by its closing scenes. Warrior is a sure knockout and I highly recommend getting to the theatre and checking it out.