Every so often you’ll come across a combat sport movie that manages to find just the right balance of drama and action – that is, more drama than action. When fights are justified with backstories full of crushing emotion, they become all the more intense and gratifying.
Warrior brings to the table the world of mixed martial arts, where punches, kicks, holds, and everything else goes. The inception of new international tournament “Sparta” puts on a collision course Paddy (Nick Nolte), Brendan (Joel Edgerton), and Tom Conlon (Tom Hardy), all part of an estranged family torn apart in the past by abuse, favoritism, and abandonment. Tom resurfaces in society to enlist the help of his formerly alcoholic father Paddy to train him for the tournament, while at the same time Brendan revisits his UFC training in hopes to win the $5 million purse for his struggling family. The two underdogs face some of the toughest MMA fighters on the planet, but the true struggle appears to lie within them. Paddy battles for forgiveness against the resentment of his sons, Tom fights to prove to himself that he is strong, and Brendan struggles to come to terms with his older family while trying to support one of his own.
The fantastic thing here is two protagonists entering the same tournament. Each brother has his own respectable reasons for fighting, a fact that is sure to divide the audience when it comes time to choose which one to root for. The story truly is gut-wrenchingly powerful and presented in an engaging fashion. Little by little through the film’s dialogue, we are allowed a glimpse into the past hardships of the Conlon family, and the characters’ motivations for retaining such hatred are revealed gradually. Through the incredible acting talents of Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, and Nick Nolte, this confused and passionate chemistry really comes alive. All three actors put up some of the most convincing and heartbreaking performances of their careers; and seeing as how The Fighter garnered so many Oscar nominations, I can’t see why Warrior will not do the same. My only beef with the movie is its clichéd climax and rather bleak inconclusive ending, though it still does good to the emotional schism the movie intended to create.
Warrior is one of those sports films with a magical mixture of emotional and physical battle. It’s a wonderful story showing how sometimes the world’s strongest forces are insignificant in comparison to the troubles of a scarred family. Warrior is without a doubt worth a visit to the theater. One of the best of 2011! And whether you’re an MMA fan or not, the adrenaline-pumping fights will have you up and cheering and applauding.