Haunted by a tragic past, Marine Tommy Conlon (Hardy) returns home for the first time in fourteen years to enlist the help of his father (Nick Nolte) to train for Sparta, the biggest winner-takes-all event in mixed martial arts history. A former wrestling prodigy, Tommy blazes a path toward the championship while his brother, Brendan (Edgerton), an ex-fighter-turned teacher, returns to the ring in a desperate bid to save his family from financial ruin. But when Brendanâs unlikely, underdog rise sets him on a collision course with the unstoppable Tommy, the two brothers must finally confront each other and the forces that pulled them apart, facing off in the most soaring, soul stirring, and unforgettable climax that must be seen to be believed.
Two brothers with a difficult past find themselves pitted against one another in all out war of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in Warrior
. Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) have lived separate lives for the past 14 years. Tommy fled their abusive father with their mother, becoming her caretaker, while holding on to the anger and hatred he felt towards his father as well as his brother Brendan who stayed behind. Brendan has built a life for himself with a wife and two daughters. He is a school teacher, desperately trying to support his family after suffering finance crippling medical bills for one of his daughter's. Tommy's past 14 years are more of a mystery. He appears on the front steps of his estranged father's home without any explanation, or with the willingness to provide one; all Tommy wants is for his father Paddy to train him again. Tommy and Brendan were, are, both fighters--Mixed Martial Arts fighters to be exact. Paddy agrees to train Tommy, and let him live again in the family home, but the demons that haunt him from his family's past as well as his own adulthood will cause ripples over the entire film, when on the surface it appears to simply be about getting Tommy and Brendan into the MMA's "superbowl" event, Sparta.
is a film about MMA fighting and there is more than enough time in the ring to satisfy any sports genre fan. This is also a movie about family, and pain. A great deal of pain actually. Tommy, Brendan, and Paddy have a great amount of issues to overcome as a family and as individual men. Tommy being the one with the most secrets, that have a tendency to be revealed at the most inopportune times but with great effect for the viewer to keep the momentum of the story going. The performances of the three actors, whether alone or together on screen, make Warrior
a much more gratifying experience because the battles in the ring mean more than just winning, they stand-in for the struggles each man faces, and must overcome, in order to find the closure they need to live the rest of their life in a state of contentment. The story is compelling, if not generic, and it manages to satiate the desire of a viewer to get their fill of sports action and familial drama films such as this are meant to provide.
Comparisons to films such as
are inevitable with Warrior
. All of the films have the same basic structure, conflicts, and strong performances by the lead and supporting actors. Warrior
does not stand out as being greater than any of the before mentioned films, but it does fit nicely into their group of dramatic sports films with a flawed, and often times broken, leading man (or two). In Warrior
one brother is fueled by anger and resentment, the other love and need. Their battle is in the ring as well as out of it but it is inside the ropes that Tommy, Brendan, and their father Paddy will finally find a semblance of peace, after experiencing the most strenuous and climactic battle.
The men of Warrior
carry the film from start to finish, and they do an excellent job at every turn. Joel Edgerton (of the fantastic film
), accentuates the emotional turmoil his character Brendan faces each and every day. As a teacher who is barely able to support his family and risking foreclosure on his home, he returns to the ring via parking lot matches in order to earn extra money. His fighting days long behind him he must keep his actions a secret, but as secrets have a tendency to do the truth comes out and his wife, Tess (Jennifer Morrison), is none too pleased. It is the sincere look of despair, and fear in his eyes, as well as guilt over his inability to maintain a life for his family that showcases the talent Edgerton possesses. His resurrection in the ring and the pride that fills him, mingled with incredible bodily pain, leaves without question that Joel Edgerton has the ability to take an at-first seemingly effortless character portrayal and make it a great deal more.
The patriarch of the picture, as one may call him given his long career of great performances, is Nick Nolte. In the role of Brendan and Tommy's father, Paddy Conlon, he is anything but the picture perfect father figure. A recovering alcoholic it was his actions that lead Tommy and his mother to flee the home more than 14 years ago, never to be seen or heard from again until now. As a man aware of the pain he has caused, the many mistakes he has made, and the long road to forgiveness, Nolte draws deep and the emotional turmoil pours out of his eyes. His reconciliation attempts are desperate, and when he is denied the access he desires of his son's the pain he feels is raw and unflinching. Paddy is a difficult man that is full of pride even after hitting the lowest point of his life and rebuilding everything piece by piece. Nolte manages to show Paddy's vulnerability as well as his arrogance, leaving the viewer filled with empathy but also the inability to completely forgive, just as Brendan and Tommy cannot.
The final notable performance comes from Tom Hardy, as Tommy Conlon. Tommy does not say much, and most of his facial expressions could splinter something as they are so cold. He hates everyone, or so it seems, and all he wants is to fight. Tommy is a formidable opponent in the ring. He is the reason this movie can be ranked with other sports dramas of the past. When Hardy's Tommy enters the MMA ring he is no longer human. The animal inside of him unleashes and no amount of pain or torture will keep him from his goal, to win by any means necessary. Hardy brings to Tommy such a great intensity it is difficult to watch but impossible to take your eyes away from him. He is exhausting to watch, with such a great deal of pent-up emotions, anger, and secrets buried inside of himself that they have made him cold, unforgiving, and quite honestly a bit scary. Tom Hardy does not fail to make Tommy Conlon someone to fear in and out of the ring, but he also manages to chip away slowly at Tommy when need be so the viewer can see there is something more behind his hostility filled stares. When the truth about Tommy is revealed, and his final battle fought, it is a heartbreaking moment for both the man, and the boy he once was who had such heavy burdens put upon him.
Forget the swells of music as fighters take the ring; in Warrior you will beg for ambient noise only. When Tommy takes the ring for the first time in an impromptu match at the gym the sounds are all glove hitting face, bones breaking, skin tearing, bodies hitting the mat (hard!), the pad shaking, and the heated breath of Tommy and his opponent. These are the sounds of a fight, and this trend for ambient sound continues with the Sparta matches as well. It is an all out assault on the body in the Sparta fights, and the sounds than accompany the pain being inflicted on the bodies and souls of these men are intense. Warrior is a much better film for not buying into the need for musical accompaniment to attach greater emphasis on a scene. When you have the honest sounds of men fighting one another, without holding back or taking a breath, these sounds trickle down onto the viewer resulting in moments where you hold your breath and think to yourself how happy you are it is not your back hitting the mat with such force.
September 9, 2011