The youngest son of an alcoholic former boxer returns home, where he's trained by his father for competition in a mixed martial arts tournament - a path that puts the fighter on a collision course with his estranged, older brother.
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Two brothers face the fight of a lifetime - and the wreckage of their broken family - within the brutal, high-stakes world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting in Lionsgate's action/drama, WARRIOR. A former Marine, haunted by a tragic past, Tommy Riordan returns to his hometown of Pittsburgh and enlists his father, a recovered alcoholic and his former coach, to train him for an MMA tournament awarding the biggest purse in the history of the sport. As Tommy blazes a violent path towards the title prize, his brother, Brendan, a former MMA fighter unable to make ends meet as a public school teacher, returns to the amateur ring to provide for his family. Even though years have passed, recriminations and past betrayals keep Brendan bitterly estranged from both Tommy and his father. But when Brendan's unlikely rise as an underdog sets him on a collision course with Tommy, the two brothers must finally confront the forces that tore them apart, all the while waging the most intense, ... Written by
"Warrior" may be one of the best movies of the year that no one sees. That in itself is puzzling. Mixed martial arts and UFC are in the cultural mainstream; in fact MMA is more popular than professional boxing. Director and writer Gavin O'Connor did the amazing "Miracle" a few years back about the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team. So he has the touch for inspirational sports stories. In "Warrior" estranged brothers Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) and Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy) fight each other in the finals of the winner take all mixed martial arts tournament Sparta in Atlantic City. "Warrior" is an inspired story of family, honor, and redemption. I applauded at the end of the movie along with the rest of the audience.
"Warrior" is a paradox of styles as inspired by its leads. Tommy (Hardy) is the AWOL Marine war hero from Afghanistan. He literally tore off a submerged tank door, saving those inside. Tommy plows through opponents with sheer rage and power. He is explosive technique. We witness this as he savagely dismantles world middle weight contender "Mad Dog" Grimes (cocky Erik Apple) with kicks, punches, and throws in an impromptu sparring session. Tommy mysteriously appears at his Dad's door step in Pittsburgh. He blames Paddy (powerful and sublime Nick Nolte) for the death of his mother. Brendan (Edgerton) is the high school physics teacher and former UFC fighter. He and his wife Tess (strong Jennifer Morrison) work several jobs to pay their upside down mortgage. Brendan gets an entry into Sparta to save his family home. He is smart and willing to take punishment to leverage his opponent's mistakes—getting a tap out. Brendan like Tommy has no love for their recovered drunk Dad (Nolte).
At the narrative arc Brendan says to Tommy, "I love you!" And neither will back down. I think O'Connor and writers Anthony Tambakis and Cliff Dorfman at times overstate the family dysfunction. "Warrior" could have been leaner, as strange as that sounds. The mixed martial arts fighting are world class and many of the fighters are MMA stars. Former professional wrestling champion Kurt Angle is fierce and dominating as Russian champ Koba. His match with Brendan is vicious and amazing. "Warrior" authentically gets the brutality and precision of mixed martial arts. Hardy and Edgerton are awesome. I read that Hardy trained intensely gaining 30 pounds of muscle. He broke ribs and fingers. Edgerton tore his knee out during the shoot.
"Warrior" has a gritty atmosphere that is all about character and adversity. O'Connor seamlessly captures this in the simple camera shots and intimate dialog. He generates amazing performances. Edgerton is the delicate balance of compassion and focus. His Brendan is a good and decent man. Hardy has an electrifying enigmatic presence. He provokes a painful sadness and rage in Tommy, for whom honor and family are everything. Nick Nolte poignantly plays their broken father, who is pivotal in the redemption of his sons. Ultimately, "Warrior" is about forgiveness and love. It is one of the year's best.
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