Directed by: Gavin O’Connor
Written by: Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis
Starring: Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte and Joel Edgerton
While most fight movies jab at our emotions with the same moves – the underdog story, the ultimate showdown, and of course, the training montage – Warrior knocks out generic conventions with a narrative of sweat-inducing suspense, and performances as bold as the characters they portray. And it isn’t simply the unique nature of mixed martial arts that grabs our attention in Warrior (although it is a nice change from BOXING). It’s the way in which Warrior‘s potentially cliche-ridden script is powerfully executed, that makes it worthy of contending against other big titles like The Fighter, and even, Rocky.
In their teens, two brothers – Tommy (Hardy) and Brendan (Edgerton) – are separated to lead very different lives as adults. While both boys were trained to be wrestlers by their alcoholic father, Paddy (Nolte), Tommy uses his brute strength to serve as a U.S. marine in the Middle East, while Brendan leaves behind his fighting days to become a physics teacher, husband, and father in a quiet suburban life. Things take a turn, however, when Tommy returns home with a mysterious desire to compete in the world’s biggest mixed martial arts tournament, and Brendan is forced to fight for a living when his finances take a downturn.
It’s not hard to predict what the climax of Warrior will be. But for all the coincidences that make it convenient for the two brothers to go head to head, the lead up to their final fight make you genuinely side with both fighters. On one side of the ring, Tommy’s broodiness is revealed as his way of dealing with loss, and on the other end, Brendan’s good guy motivations and struggle to be a better father figure than his own old man combine to bring complexity and compelling qualities to all the kicking and punching that goes on in the final matches.
With near-perfect choreography and direction, Warrior is a fight movie that delivers punches with stirring family drama and genuinely powerful thrills. It’s no game-changer, but with extra kick, it most certainly feels like a winner.