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Director: Gavin O' Connor
Writers: Gavin O' Connor, Anthony Tambakis, Cliff Dorfman
Cast: Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo, Kevin Dunn, Maximiliano Hernández, Bryan Callen, Sam Sheridan, Fernando Chien, Jake McLaughlin, Vanessa Martinez, Denzel Whitaker, Carlos Miranda, Nick Lehane, Laura Kenley Chinn
Synopsis: The youngest son (Hardy) of an alcoholic former boxer (Nolte) returns home, where he's trained by his father for competition in a mixed martial arts tournament -- a path that puts the fighter on a collision corner with his older brother (Edgerton).
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense mixed martial arts fighting, some language and thematic material
About Today by The National
A "Rocky" style movie for a new generation
What do you get when you combine the inspirational elements of "Rocky" with the dramatic weight of "Million Dollar Baby?" The simple answer is the film, "Warrior." Not only is this movie arguably one of the best sport films that I've seen in a while, but it's also one of the most heartfelt ones out there. In fact, many of the key characters, in this movie, could of had their own movie, and each would've been very interesting to see on screen. Yet, they're all featured in one film, which makes it that much more of an epic to watch.
"Warrior" is actually a movie about two different stories that intertwine with each other, to create arguably one of the most epic climaxes that I've ever seen in a film before. The story revolves around two brothers, who each have fallen on some hard times. One of them is a high school physics teacher, who's been secretly moonlighting as an MMA fighter (Mixed Martial Arts), to pay some of the bills. Although his wife doesn't approve of his actions, when she finds out, the reality is that the bank is about to foreclose on their home soon, and both their incomes combined won't be enough. Therefore, if he wants to keep the house, then he virtually has no choice; hence in spite of his wife's protests, Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) trains to enter the MMA tournament, to win the money.
Granted, this premise alone would be enough to spark a great inspirational film, as the elements are there for a great underdog story. After all, it has a man who's about to lose his house, as he struggles to support his family, and he's a virtual unknown in the MMA league. To make matters more interesting, none of the sports commentators give Brendan a chance, as they see him as a joke. Yet, what those doubters don't know is that he has something more dangerous than any of the other fighters have, in the MMA tournament. Meaning, he has something worth fighting for. Indeed, if you were to look at all these elements alone, then you could sense how great of a story it would be on it's own. However, this is only half the story, as there's more to tell.
The other half of the story involves Brendan's brother, Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy), who mysteriously goes AWOL while in active military service. He comes home to stay with his father, Paddy (Nick Nolte), for a while, but the two aren't that close. As it's revealed in the movie, Paddy used to be an alcoholic when Brendan and Tommy were kids, and he'd always beat up their mother whenever he were drunk. Although Paddy has been sober for years, both his kids still hate his guts all the same. Sure, Brendan claims to have forgiven Paddy, but the animosity is still there, as Paddy is forbidden to even visit his own grandchildren. In fact, Paddy's youngest grand daughter doesn't even know he exists, as Brendan feels that Paddy is too much of a bad influence on his kids.
As for Tommy, he sees Paddy as something of a loser, who as far as he's concerned, might as well be dead. However, as much as Tommy hates his father, he goes to him for help, so he can train for the MMA tournament. Tommy's reason to enter is quite simple. During his time in the military, one of his comrades died in battle, who was like a brother to him; even more so than his real brother, Brendan.
Although Brendan tries to reconnect with him throughout various parts of the film, Tommy hates his guts just the same. Why you may ask? Because when their parents divorced, when they were teenagers, Tommy left with his mother while Brendan stayed behind to live with his father; even though they both clearly hated Paddy all the same. The reason why Brendan stayed was because he didn't want to leave his high school sweetheart, at the time, who later became his wife and mother of his children. Unfortunately, Tommy saw it as an act of betrayal; hence the severe animosity between them.
To get back to the rest of Tommy's story, he goes AWOL once his friend dies in combat because he feels extremely guilty about his death. And knowing about his friend's family back home, he vows to win the MMA tournament, and give away all his winnings to them. Like Brendan's story, this would've also have made a great inspirational story on it's own as well. However, it's because these two different stories are intertwined together that "Warrior" is arguably one of the best films out there.
Not only are both the main characters unique, but Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy were brilliant in their perspective roles. Although Joel Edgerton isn't the most popular actor out there, he certainly proves how versatile he is in this part, as he meshes the perfect combination of vulnerability and toughness that most actors would struggle with to pull off. As for Tom Hardy, he's rather great in his role as well. Sure, one might think he's nothing more than a cold hearted jerk, to both his father and brother, if you were to base your opinions solely on what he says.
However, there's a strong dignity to him, as you can still sense a innate sense of compassion through his strong silent type exterior. One particular scene for instance, it shows Paddy getting drunk off his a**, after Tommy calls him a loser when Paddy tries to tell him how proud he was of him for saving a few military soldiers in battle. Needless to say, Paddy starts drinking again, as he feels nothing he says or does will ever win back the affections of his sons. However, upon this discovery, Tommy shows a brief moment of kindness to comfort his drunken father during this time. Although it's never exactly revealed if Tommy forgives his father for what he's done in the past, but you can still feel a strong sense of compassion within him.
As for Oscar nominee, Nick Nolte, I thought he was great in his performance as well. If anything, I can see exactly why he was nominated, as he meshes the perfect blend of vulnerability along with a calm exterior of a broken man trying to reconnect with his sons again. Although both of them hate his guts completely, he still tries to be there for them all the same. Granted, Nick Nolte is only a supporting character in this movie, but he carried his part rather well, as one couldn't help but feel sympathetic towards his character; in spite of his past.
Overall, Gavin O'Connor does a terrific job creating the perfect tone for the movie, as it grabs your attention from the very beginning, and never lets it go. Plus, I loved how the screenplay for this movie incorporated the underdog sporting cliches in such a unique way that it never feels like a generic rip off of anything else that's ever been done before. No, "Warrior" is a unique movie all it's own. Another great thing that impressed me was the fight choreography, and cinematography. Not only did the fight scenes seemed genuinely authentic, but the cinematography, during the MMA tournament scenes, gives the viewers the immediate feel of a real MMA tournament bout. Therefore, I really have to tip my hat off to them for this movie.
Unfortunately, the film does have a tendency to be a bit predictable at times, but it's never bad enough to where it ruins the movie. In the end, I'd have to give this movie a three and a half out of four. It's definitely worth seeing if you haven't already, as it's truly one of the best films of last year.