Director: Gavin O’Connor
Starring: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo
Warrior is a hard, gritty movie about two estranged brothers who return to fighting for very different reasons, and follows the fortunes of their recovering father who is caught between his two sons – both who have no time or respect for him.
We also see the impact this has on Brendan’s wife, Tess, and how it affects his family life as it becomes apparent they have no other choices available. The use of one plot device being used to put families on the same path isn’t new, but Warrior uses it to great effect and pulls it off.
Tom Hardy is fantastic as Tommy – the embittered, angry, focused and unrepentant ex-Marine. His range throughout the film varies more than simply annoyed to angry, but the heavy eyes say it all throughout. Undergoing a similar transformation from his roles in Bronson (and eventually The Dark Knight Rises) Hardy is a monster, with a heavily muscled chest, shoulders and neck he definitely looks every bit the fighter. It is a great performance and especially from the third act onwards.
Joel Edgerton, also, delivers a great performance. A physics teacher and doting father by day, and a UFC fighter by night – the role required a certain character to save it from feeling like parody and thankfully Edgerton provides this. He is fully believable as the loving father, the popular teacher and as the tough underdog. His story arc is fascinating throughout the movie. Nick Nolte received an Academy Award nod for his role as the recovering alcoholic, seeking forgiveness from his sons. He brings a sensitive touch that it seems only he could have brought to the role, the sympathetic yet stoic father who really wins the audience over with a heartfelt performance. A fine delivery from a fine actor.
The parallels in the movie are obvious to see – from the get-go we meet Tommy in the evening, outside a small house in a dimly lit street, and inside the house is just as grim and shadowy. Alternatively, we are introduced to Brendan in the streaming sunlight in a middle-class suburban house surrounded by family and friends. Tommy’s fighting style is pure rage, a ferocious explosion of fists, knees and kicks, whereas Brendan is more methodical – less a fighter, more technical, always looking for submission holds. Even the training methods are opposites, Tommy trains in a fight club and works with his father whereas Brendan takes residence in a shiny MMA gym (run by the ever dependable Frank Grillo) Hell, when they fight each other, Tommy wears black trunks and Brendan dons white trunks. What they do share, though, is a mutual distrust and dislike of their father Paddy. Paddy is routinely cast aside throughout the movie, especially by Tommy and sometimes in aggressive manners but his spirit to never give up is evident, even in the face of insurmountable odds.
The choreography of the fights is done very well and is brutal – at times I forgot I was watching a movie and felt like I was tuned into an MMA event. Unsurprisingly, both leads injured themselves during the production, however, their committed performances only aid the movie further.
The one criticism of the movie is the initial narrative; it is clear from the start where the movie will lead (though not clear on the conclusion) though to be fair, the marketing made it very clear before the movie was released. On the flipside, the build up to the main event is so good, and allows for such good tension, that it’s very much worth it. How O’Connor allowed Hardy and Edgerton to develop their characters is brilliant, in the end you aren’t sure what the outcome will be, and you find yourself rooting for both fighters – there’s no favourite here.
Though it follows familiar routes to its conclusion, the powerful performance from the three leads elevates the movie beyond most of those similar, and creates a gripping and emotional powerhouse of a movie.
October 8th 2016