¨Break out the yellow tape, Sam. Tommy's walking away from the cage like he's leaving a crime scene.¨
Warrior is one of my favorite films of the year along with Drive and the final Harry Potter movie. This film really caught me by surprise. I`m generally not a huge fan of sports movies; don`t get me wrong, I like them, but they usually are very predictable and never end up among my favorites. However, Warrior is really a terrific movie that had me routing for both fighters at the end. What really stands out however in this movie aren`t the actual fighting scenes, but the entire family drama that goes on. Warrior makes The Fighter look like a silly movie and I really enjoyed that one, but the performances in this film (apart from Bale`s excellent performance) and the script are much better. The family in Warrior is a totally broken one, and although there are some clichés and corny moments, I really had a great time with this emotionally strong sports drama written and directed by Gavin O`Connor who also directed the 2004 sports film: Miracle. The fighting scenes are really well choreographed and the actors all look like real fighters. Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy are great as the lead characters and they really buffed out for this movie. The true surprise of Warrior however was Nick Nolte`s powerful performance as the broken father who is looking for redemption and forgiveness from his estranged sons. There are really some powerful and emotional dramatic scenes, but there are also plenty of strong fighting scenes so you will be satisfied whatever it is you are looking for. This movie deserves some Oscar buzz, it is just that good, and it really hasn`t received as much recognition as it should.
Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte) is a recovering alcoholic and former boxer who is living on his own after having pushed away his sons and wife when they were teens due to his alcohol abuse. Fourteen years later his youngest son, Tommy (Tom Hardy), who just returns as a Marine from Iraq, shows up at his doorsteps, and despite realizing his father is a changed man he still doesn`t want to have a relationship with him. He is still hurt and broken for everything that went on in his past. Paddy wasn`t a good father, but Tommy recognizes he was a great coach and wants him to train him for a Mixed Martial Art tournament called Sparta where the best fighters from the world will come to compete for the grand prize of 5 million dollars. Paddy coached Tommy during High School where he broke all the wrestling records and was never defeated. As the movie progresses more details about his past are revealed, and we also get to know why he needs the prize money. Tommy`s older brother, Brendan (Joel Edgerton) is also estranged from his family. Brendan never ran off with Tommy and his mother because he was in love with a girl who later became his wife and mother of his two beautiful daughters: Tess (Jennifer Morrison). Tommy never forgave Brendan for this and hasn`t communicated with him since. Brendan is a former UFC fighter and now works as a Physics teacher. Tess made him give up fighting after he was hospitalized and nearly died. They seem to be happy with their kids, but they are having financial problems and will lose the house in three months due to some heavy debts from his youngest daughter being hospitalized for heart issues. She is very well now, but Brendan can`t pay off his debts so he decides to enter the tournament as well and begins training with his former trainer Frank (Frank Grillo).
One of the things I enjoyed the most about this family drama is that it played out perfectly. O`Connor doesn`t talk down to the audience, we begin putting the pieces together about the family`s past through natural conversation that go on between them. We realize there is more to Tommy than we actually expect at first. Behind his tough guy persona there is some good in him. Brendan is also an excellent father and a nice guy. As the movie progresses we identify with both characters and can`t help but route for both of them. The trailer lets us know that both brothers will reach the final and compete with each other so it is no spoiler that I`m telling you this. You will have a hard time choosing who you want to win the fight. The family drama plays out perfectly and there are some great scenes between Hardy, Eldridge, and Nolte. Jennifer Morrison also does a great job playing the worried and carrying wife. The performances in this film are really top notch, and the action doesn`t let you down either. Fans of MMA and UFC won`t be disappointed with the fighting scenes. This is a great film with a great story and great performances. As we begin to uncover one layer after another of this family`s past we begin to route for them and identify with their pain. Nolte`s eyes really show us how repented he is for his past sins and how much he wants to reconcile with his two sons. His performance is Oscar worthy as a supporting character. By all means go see Warrior, you won`t regret it. This is Rocky meets Bloodsport meet Brothers.