by LaSonya Thompson
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Acclaimed director Gavin O’Connor (MIRACLE) does the incredible AGAIN. Warrior is about two brothers who enter a mixed martial arts fighting competition, SPARTA, in order to win the world championship prize of five million dollars. The youngest brother, Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy), who went AWOL from the Marines, intends to give the prize money to his deceased military friend’s widow and children. Tommy physically resembles the Incredible Hulk with a monster body and raging anger. The oldest brother, Brendan (Joel Edgerton), a high school physics teacher, ex-fighter, and husband/father, needs the money to rescue his family home from foreclosure. Brendan breaks a solemn promise to his wife (Jennifer Morrison) that he would never fight again, and this adds marital tensions on top of their financial woes. Brendan is the underdog at SPARTA because he is unknown and has a lightweight athletic build compared to Tommy and other star athletes.
Tommy harbors childhood animosity towards Brendan because Brendan left home to runaway with his girlfriend (now wife) at the age of sixteen, leaving Tommy alone as a little scared boy to take care of their dying mother. Brendan was unaware at the time when he jumped the family ship that their mom was sick with cancer. Before the brothers square off in the ring, Brendan asks Tommy to let bygones be bygones. Brendan even tries to show his wallet-size happy family photos to Tommy, but Tommy’s bitter response is that he doesn’t have a brother. While the emotional fire blazes between the two brothers, their recovering alcoholic father, played by Nick Nolte, pleads with both for forgiveness and a second chance at reestablishing a father-son bond.
Warrior exhibits remnants of Rocky by separately showcasing both brothers getting into mental and physical shape. Tommy is trained by their veteran father but defiantly decides the what, when, where, and how of the training. Go figure. Brendan trains humbly in the shadow of eye-candy, jaw-dropping star athletes and they are all being coached by his friend-trainer (Frank Grillo) known for incorporating classical music into training techniques. Tommy advances up the competition ranks with Mike Tyson-like one-punch knockouts, whereas Brendan beats his opponents with mind-over-matter endurance and imposes his will on them with his superior mental and physical conditioning.
When Tommy and Brendan finally compete, one side of the arena is filled with Tommy’s military colleagues cheering him on, while on the sidelines, the police await to arrest Tommy for military desertion. As for Brendan, the typical Hollywood scene shows him noticing his wife in the arena crowd giving him the “I love you, I support you” smile. Brendan makes one last plea to Tommy to call off the fight but Tommy turns a deaf ear. The audience is left to see who will emerge as the toughest man on the planet.
Warrior is not a typical guy fight flick. This intense action drama sizzles with raw emotion. Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton light the screen brightly with superb acting performances. Both draw your sympathy and frustration equally in their respective roles. The pacing was like lightning, never leaving a dull spot. And let me not forget the resurrection of Nick Nolte. He, too, made a promising comeback.
Warrior had two drawbacks. The first drawback is that every fighter had a pretty baby face; no one was ugly or scarred from the physical toll of fighting, and this seemed unrealistic. The second drawback is the ending, while could have stood to be less “Hollywood,” although it’s also possible that it was designed with a sequel in mind.
Due to the violence, it is not a family movie per se, but it is a movie that has several lessons for families to learn from. All in all, Warrior is definite must-see.
LaSonya Thompson is an attorney residing in Brooklyn, NY, serving the film and media community.
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