Everyone loves an underdog story, but what if there are two underdogs fighting against each other? Hailed as one of the best fighting films since Rocky, Warrior directed by Gavin O’Connor, is definitely worth watching.
Warrior focuses on the relationship held in one family. The youngest son, Tommy (Tom Hardy), has returned from war and wants to compete in the top mixed martial arts tournament so he can win the cash prize. He lost a friend where he was stationed and wants to look after the victim’s family. The eldest son, Brendan (Joel Edgerton), is a teacher and a secret fighter by night, struggling to make ends meet. He and his wife both work two jobs and in a month will lose their family home. The tensions between the brothers are high – they haven’t seen each other since Brendan left at 16 to get married leaving Tommy to look after their mum, who eventually become ill and died.
Their father Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte) adds another complication. Neither wants a relationship with their father, a reformed abusive alcoholic who made both boy’s lives hell growing up, but both become tied to him due to their involvement in the tournament. Paddy was once a great fighting trainer and so Tommy asks him for help, but makes it clear where he stands on having him back in his life.
Warrior is a heart-breaking tale of family, loss and is, quite literally, a fight for survival. Hardy, Edgerton and Nolte very much share the limelight and each put themselves through their paces for their characters. Hardy looks the biggest he has ever physically been and, since showcasing his talents in films like Bronson and Inception, he is fast becoming a Hollywood must have. Thankfully is he is still taking roles with bite and emotion. Tommy is a complex character and the scenes between him and his father are hard-hitting and sometimes difficult to watch. Anyone who has been in a similar situation will identify with the struggle these two characters go through with each other.
Joel Edgerton is a man who has been on the radar but not in the forefront. It is hard to believe this is the same man who starred in the British film Kinky Boots, wearing a high pair of boots for the role. People may recognise him from films such as King Arthur, however, having been in Warrior it’ll be hard for film makers to ignore him. Brendan is a family man and, since leaving his old life behind at such a young age, he isn’t in a rush to go back to it. He hasn’t got the same physical build as Hardy and sometimes you wonder how he copes with all the fights. Luckily he does and the scenes are some of the strongest seen in this type of film.
Come awards season a special nod should go to Nolte for this film. Having been on a rough downward spiral for many years he was in a position where a lot of studios wouldn’t hire him. It is a great job that O’Connor ignored this because Nolte does some of the finest work of his career in this film. He is watchable and completely draws you in as the failed father. His struggles as a recovering alcoholic really move you as an audience member whilst he has a fantastic capability of making you feel sorry for him even though you know he has done awful things.
The fight scenes in Warrior are graphic and hard-hitting but not in the same way as the violence you see in films like Adulthood and Harry Brown. This is an old school fighting film at its best, like Rocky. It will be sure to grab some major attention come Oscar time, so catch it now.
Best performance: Nick Nolte.
Best scene: The ending.
Best line: Tommy – ‘So you found God, huh? That’s awesome. See, Mom kept calling out for him but he wasn’t around. I guess Jesus was down at the mill forgiving all the drunks. Who knew?’.
Watch this if you liked: Rocky, The Wrestler.