There have been great movies about boxing and in the ring fighting. We have seen Raging Bull, Rocky and The Fighter among others. Now comes Warrior and it too is one of the great ones. The basic plot concerns a battle between two brothers in a mixed martial arts event, but it is the back story and the side stories that lift this film out of the average and place it into the greats.
The basic story concerns two estranged brothers, Tommy Riordan (Tom Hardy) and Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton). Both of these guys have troubles as you find out as the film progresses. And both are on the outs with each other and their father Paddy (Nick Nolte).
In a strange twist of fate both brothers end up in a "mixed martial arts" competition where the prize money is five million dollars. This sounds too contrived to be believable but in the movie it actually works in a logical way. By the time of the championship battle the audience has been so engrained with both Tommy and Brendan's stories that they are conflicted as to which brother they want to win.
This film is an emotional heart-tugger from beginning to end. Tommy is such a brooding, lonely character that you want more and more information about his background. Brendan is more the "every man" since he is a high school physics teacher who actually inspires his students, but he has pain in his past also.
The acting in this film is top-notch. Hardy and Edgerton will get big boosts to their careers from their roles here. They not only act the parts, they enact the physicality of the roles. As cage fighters they have to be in top shape and they are. The fight scenes are brief but authentic looking.
Nolte is the vulnerable emotional center of the movie. Paddy is a recovering alcoholic who has been brutal to his wife and sons in the past. Now he is trying to atone for his sins but can't seem to reach either of his two sons. It is a tender, touching performance by Nolte and one that should be remembered at awards time.
Also providing able support in their roles are Jennifer Morrison as Brendan's wife, Kevin Dunn as his school principal, and Frank Grillo as his trainer. Jake McLaughlin makes an impression as one of Tommy's fellow Marines, and Vanessa Martinez plays the widow of one of Tommy's wartime buddies.
The film is rated PG-13 for profanity and violence.
Warrior is a movie pieced together with precision by director Gavin O'Connor. He molds the performances, calibrates all the actions, and determines the depth of the emotions presented. When a director is this good and the script and cast are on an upper level then the final product has to be great -- and Warrior is all that and more.
I scored Warrior a battling 9 out of 10 on www.jackiekcooper.com.