Hardy plays Tommy Conlon, an ex-Marine haunted by a tragic past and he returns to his hometown of Pittsburgh. Eventually he asks his father Paddy (played by Nick Nolte), a recovered alcoholic and his former coach, to train him for an MMA tournament with a huge purse reward – the biggest in the history of the sport.
Then there’s Tommy’s brother, Brendan (played by Joel Edgerton). Brendan *had* been an MMA fighter but he quit fighting for his wife, who didn’t want to see him keep ending up bloodied and broken, in the hospital, etc. Since he quit fighting, he became a public school teacher. But, he and his wife are unable to make ends meet for various reasons – one of them being the health of one of their children, who has a heart condition, and they’re facing foreclosure on their house. So, behind his wife’s back, he returns to amateur fighting to provide for his family. Eventually he asks for the help of Frank (played by Frank Grillo) – who I think had also been his former trainer or coach when he was a fighter – to help him get better at his fighting so he can advance beyond where he is.
The relationship Brendan has with his brother and father is frayed to the point of being pretty much broken because of the turmoil caused by Paddy’s alcoholism when they were young kids. It tore their family apart – Tommy left home with his mother and Brendan stayed behind because of his relationship with his girlfriend (who later became his wife). So there are a LOT of bad feelings between the two boys towards each other, towards their father, it’s very dysfunctional.
At any rate, it ends up that Brendan makes it to the same prize fight that his brother has. And, as the trailer shows, Brendan’s unlikely rise as an underdog has set him on a collision course with Tommy for the big prize in the final fight of the tournament.
I first saw Warrior shortly after my grandfather died – the one I mentioned in the previous movie review, who suffered from Alzheimer’s; family was in town and one of my brothers introduced us to the movie. I’d seen the reviews for it but was kinda “meh” on the whole thing, though I had heard it was really good.
Anyway – wow.
I don’t know if it was because of what was going on my our lives at the time, with the death of my grandfather, but this movie just … pulled on all the right heartstrings.
There was SO much about it that got everything right.
So, right off the bat I’m going to start with ratings:
Excellent plot, excellent characters, excellent storytelling. There were a couple/few moments that felt a bit cheesy or unnecessary (for instance the whole thing with Brendan’s kids and their efforts to get the fight broadcast on the school grounds, or whatever – that felt like extra fluff that didn’t really need to be there).
But other than that I have no real complaints about this film. I think it has the right combination of what makes for a good drama, and the right amount of action to keep things moving along at a good pace.
Oh my goodness – nothing but great things to say about the 3 main cast members: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, and Nick Nolte.
They played their parts so convincingly that their emotions almost felt like a tangible thing.
The family drama was just … heartbreaking, because we’ve all – or almost all of us have – experienced something similar to the sort of thing that drove them apart (whether it’s just separation/divorce, abuse – either emotional or physical, and/or a loved one dealing with addition … seeing how families can be torn apart, often irreparably, because of the things that can happen in a family, how lives can be forever altered, psyches forever affected and damaged … it’s just so sad to witness. Not just because of how tragic it is on a human level, but also because most of us can identify to some extent with the emotions going on with the characters.
Nick Nolte was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in this movie, and I personally think he should have won – but that might be my bias for this film and his performance talking. I don’t even remember who did end up winning that year.
Hardy and Edgerton – also with excellent performances – you really feel so bad for both of these characters and knowing their background, the dysfunctional relationship they have, you feel a real sense of dread leading up to their final confrontation in the ring.
Frank Grillo delivered a good performance as well – I actually thought he was an MMA guy or something, that’s how convincing he was. I thought he looked familiar – like maybe I’d seen him in the ring or as a coach or something, but then I realized later it was just because he’d been in a show I used to watch (The Gates). Speaking of Grillo, he’s now starring in a DirectTV show called The Kingdom, which is also about MMA fighting. I’ve heard it’s really good, though I haven’t checked it out yet.
Jennifer Morrison pulled out a solid performance as the part of Brendan’s wife – it wasn’t anything spectacular, or on the same scale as what the three main actors did, but it was good for what it was, as a supporting cast member.
I loved this movie so much it quickly became one of my top favorites. Everything works so well, and the final fight scene with the two brothers … oh my goodness …it was one of the most powerful, gutwrenching, moving things I’ve seen onscreen. Just that alone is enough to make the whole film worth it.
Final thoughts: while I typically enjoy action movies (I’d pick one over a chick flick any day), films about boxing/fighting … they’re not generally something I’d gravitate toward, but I’m really glad I did with this one.
It was worth it.