That feeling of soul-squeezing intensity is hard to come by in movies these days. Maybe because most movies these days are the cinematic equivalent of a stale soda. But that cannot be said of Gavin O’Connor’s Warrior, a movie that awesomely blends mixed martial arts with even more mixed martial arts, yet simultaneously manages to produce a powerful story of separation and the ultimate reunion that follows.
The plot revolves around the lives of two brothers, both trained in the sport of boxing and wrestling that is mixed martial arts. As a result of their father’s drunkenness, the pair is separated in their teens and go on to lead drastically different lives. Years later, one is an Iraq-war hero trying to forget his past, and the other is a family man struggling to keep his home. In need of money, both are drawn back into the fighting game in the form of a single MMA tournament with a five million dollar payoff. The pieces are set, and the fighting ensues, leading up to the ultimate battle in which the brothers must face their past, their differences and each other.
Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte give honorably solid performances as the men who make up this estranged family. Hardy (Inception) consistently gives his all to the character of the war torn Tommy, gradually warming up to the audience as a man forever on the run from a past that he cannot escape. Sharing the spotlight, Edgerton (King Arthur) complements Hardy’s gruffness with his portrayal of Brendan, the brother who has found solace in the arms of his wife (Jennifer Morrison of House) and kids, yet still nurses the wounds of his broken childhood. Nick Nolte (Tropic Thunder) is Paddy, the father who so many years ago tore his family apart through alcohol abuse, and now yearns for both forgiveness and a new beginning. Nolte’s performance effectively brings the emotions of sorrow and hope to life. Paddy feels sorrow over the family he disfigured, but hopes that he might one day bring them back together again. Overall, the chemistry created by this cast is well worth the ticket price.
Warrior is a visual celebration, not only because of its ensemble of uniquely powerful performances, but also because of its surprisingly well-directed fight scenes. As with all “fight movies,” the film features rampant kicking and punching. Rather than detracting from the credibility of the plot, these fight scenes instead bring the film to new levels of cinematic triumph and elicited waves of enthusiastic applause from the audience.
In conclusion, Warrior is definitely worth the ticket. Not many movies can deliver this much intensity and when one comes along, it is truly a privilege to experience. It is Rocky meets Cinderella Man meets Rocky again, with relatable heroes and a story that steals our eyes and souls from start to finish.