Warrior is so beautifully constructed and emotionally engaging, the tears are almost certain to fall. It is a straight genre picture, a fight movie of the old school. But it’s a mixed martial arts tale, I don't know much about Mixed Martial Arts except that it appears to be an extreme form of regulated fighting, with combatants using a variety of tactics to bring their opponent down.
Brendan (Joel Edgerton) is a dedicated educator and a devoted family man. His students adore him, and so does his wife, Tess (Jennifer Morrison). But Brendan’s roots and his future are entangled in more violent pursuits. He used to be something of a big deal on the mixed martial arts circuit. As hard as they work, Brendan and Tess have financial troubles. And one of their children requires expensive medical care.
Meanwhile Tommy (Tom Hardy), Brendan’s estranged younger brother, returns to the modest house in Pittsburgh where they grew up. Years before, Tommy and their mother fled the boys’ abusive, alcoholic father, Paddy(Nick Nolte), a wrestling coach. Tommy, a former Marine and a war hero who served in Iraq, is looking for a fight, and without forgiving his sobered-up, apologetic dad, he engages the old man’s professional services as he prepares to go into the ring.
Unknown to each other, both Tommy and Brendan are training for Sparta, a $5 million, winner-take-all tournament. Every sports movie needs a Big Game, the Sparta provides us a grand spectacle of redemption and revenge.
- Director O'Connor gives the film a dark, moody look, which is the best choice for so many boiling emotions. This is not a traditional stand-up-and-cheer fight movie; the undertones are too strong and deep.
- The fight scenes are choreographed and filmed with great energy. This sports-movie takes us to the big tournament, that both men enter, each with a need to win. That destination is entertaining, but it is the journey and the people who take it, that makes this fine film.
In all the fight movies, we always want one man to win the tournament, but this is a rare fight movie in which we don't want to see either fighter lose. Warrior has real emotion, vivid, finely crafted performances and a story that will seize you from its opening moments. Action movies are never this good.
The most fascinating thing about "Warrior" is that, for all its violence and mayhem, it is a movie about love.