Fighting is much more than something physical, it’s a bearing of the soul and a recognition of your identity. Looking at fight films, there’s not much you can do with the formula but recycle and hope you’ve added enough to make it feel fresh. Warrior is a film that approaches the fight film formula in an exciting way: two brothers, both fighting for something greater than pride or money, go head to head. Gavin O’Connor’s film takes the fight film to a novel level, easily spearing through the past MMA based films. The performances from Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and especially Nick Nolte are fantastic. Warrior is just like that rare fight that exceeds all the hype surrounding it.
Director O’Connor uses handheld cameras and muted colors to accent the movie’s gritty story, and also adds some style here and there; for example, the training montage is done in pop-up boxes. The script uses the same fight formula other fight movies have, but it does a few things that are interesting, most notably the fact that there are two protagonists. The story is well-balanced to provide equal focus on both Brenden and Tommy, the two brothers. For a drama, the film is well-paced, and the run-time (2 hours 20 minutes) doesn’t feel lengthy at all. No matter what you think of the film, there is no denying that the fights are hard-hitting and explosive; no punches are pulled here.
The veteran of the cast, Nick Nolte, is phenomenal in this film, and I won’t be the last to say it. Nolte, as Paddy, is a broken figure that desperately wants to reconnect with his sons after years of being a good-for-nothing drunk. As he is always on the verge of breaking down, Paddy is trying his very best to find redemption while he’s emotionally stuck on an island. Nolte is so pathetic as he mopes around and begs to be forgiven that you can’t help but care for a man as lost as he is. He’s that bum on the corner with hope in his eyes, even though the rest of himself screams hopeless, and part of you wants to help him but the other is saying he deserves what he’s earned.
Tom Hardy is a beast of an actor, as he plays the heroic marine named Tommy Conlon. Hardy is brooding, as he carries the hurt of guilt within him, along with the betrayal of his brother and father. There’s so much rage inside him and he tries to substitute that singular emotion for everything else. He’s built himself an emotional cage and anybody that tries to communicate with him steps into that cage without knowing. Despite his poker face, there’s something brewing underneath, yearning for connection, and we see that as Hardy’s piercing eyes and care-free mannerisms try to hide it.
Joel Edgerton, as the Physics teacher/fighter Brenden Conlon, gives a cheer-worthy performance. He’s the underdog, and he plays the character very well. He has his entire life to fight for, even though everyone believes he will fail. Edgerton is that everyday man playing hero for his family because that’s the right thing to do.
The films grapples you down until you feel your veins pumping, your heart racing and your breath being sucked out of you; Warrior strips the characters down to show the audience what’s worth fighting. The characters in Warrior definitely hit hard like wrecking balls, but the film hits your heart the hardest.
Despite the fresh take on the story, there are many cliches in the film: the alcoholic father, the underdog, and the war hero fighting for something more than legacy.
Some may think the fights are realistic, but they’re still too neat to be called authentically choreographed MMA fights. Then again, it would be less interesting for general viewers to watch if the fights were exactingly real.
Some may also disagree with the ending, and would have preferred the alternative because it would make more sense, considering how the two brothers get to the top and face each other.
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