By: Oberst von Berauscht (A Toast) –
Brendan and Tommy Conlon (Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy respectively) are retired MMA fighters long-separated from each other, living very different lives. Brendan left the abuse and neglect of his father as a teenager, and is now a high school physics teacher with three children, a loving wife, and a mortgage that is about to go south. Tommy on the other hand has become reclusive, until the day he appears on the doorstep of their father and former manager Paddy (Nick Nolte). The brothers are drawn back into the ring, and soon find themselves fighting in the same competition in Atlantic City, both with different goals and lingering resentment for past transgressions. Neither Tommy nor Brendan is willing to give up, and they have made commitments to those they cannot let down.
This joke is too fucking easy
We’ve all seen it before; the exact same story arcs with minor changes made to make them look a bit less recycled. “Guy in weak position in life reaches breaking point, finds inspiration to keep going through circle one: (the help of a caring and intriguing love interest / gruff-yet encouraging new trainer / financial problems affecting family / to prove that he has what it takes).” One would have thought this genre would have burnt out long ago from years of overuse and exploitation. But as soon as you start to think you’ve seen the end of the “fighter movie”, a new artist delivers a film with fresh performances or an unusual take on the formula that enlivens the concept.
The greatest strength of Warrior is the no-nonsense approach to personal drama. There are no easy answers to the troubles each character faces, and filmmaker Gavin O’Connor wisely avoids mawkish sentiment. Personal demons are not something which can be destroyed in a single blow, and Warrior makes it clear that the process will be gradual. Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy are both perfect fits for their roles, and as the burnt out, yet recovering alcoholic father Nick Nolte has found the role for which he has prepared his entire life.
Pictured above: the grandmaster of Method acting
Jokes aside, Nolte definitely brings his A-Game, and is perhaps even more beat down and gruff than Burgess Meredith from Rocky. The fight sequences are also filmed fantastically; you can almost feel each punch, kick, choke hold and throw. It is made clear that, while certainly not a pretty thing to watch, these athletes are no less professional or technically proficient than those of the higher profile and (*cough* allegedly *cough*) “cleaner” sport of boxing. It also does much to bring the sport further into the mainstream, one that is already international, with fighters from nations as far off as China or Russia.
I swear that I even saw Soda Popinski, still no word on King Hippo however…
This movie is perhaps doomed to be compared to a very successful and admittedly similar film from last year also about a brother-fighter relationship torn apart by family drama. But whereas Christian Bale’s crack-addict upstaged Mark Walberg’s solid but unobtrusive performance in 2010’s The Fighter, Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton each deliver stellar performances that complement each other, while not feeling like an egotistic grab for attention.
His business card is just the right shade of bone though
If the Academy doesn’t get all butt-hurt over the MMA setting, this film could be a contender
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for BODYSLAM!
Take a Drink: every time the referee says “Let’s go to War”
See if you can keep up with: Nick Nolte’s bender during the alcohol-psychosis breakdown (which incidentally sounds like an awesome band name)