Warrior (2011)

Warrior (2011)

Warrior is a compelling sports-drama that transcends the genre.

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Left to right: Tom Hardy as Tommy; Nick Nolte as Paddy in “Warrior”

Warrior follows the lives of estranged brothers Tommy Riordan Conlon (Tom Hardy) and Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton). Tommy arrives at his father’s—Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte)—home from his stint in the Marines. Paddy marvels at the sight of seeing Tommy again, but Tommy doesn’t reciprocate his feelings. Holding contempt for his father for drinking excessively and abusing the family many years prior, Tommy spews mean remarks to Paddy; consequently, Paddy grimaces at the insults, making him reflect on prior mistakes. Despite the tension between the two, Tommy requests Paddy’s help to train for the big MMA event: Sparta, where the winner wins 5 million dollars.

Meanwhile, Tommy’s brother, Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) teaches physics at a local high school in Philadelphia. Loved by his students, Brendan takes pride in what he does and works hard to provide for his family. Unfortunately, Brendan is in financial trouble and needs a lot of money to pay for the backed-up mortgage payments. Determined to make enough money to pay off his debts, Brendan returns to one of his old professions: Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

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Joel Edgerton as Brendan in “Warrior”

Consequently, a leaked video showing Brendan fighting attracts the attention of the school board which, in turn, leads to Brendan being suspended without pay. Without money coming in from his teaching job, Brendan decides to return to MMA fighting full-time to make some money on the side. He reaches out to his old friend/coach Frank Campana to help him train for local matches. Later, an opportunity arises when Frank’s prized choice for Sparta gets injured. Brendan, motivated to win the prize money, convinces Frank to let him compete in Sparta.

But as the two brothers enter the competition, questions beg to be answered: Will they be able to measure up to the pro fighters? Will they be able to confront each other and resolve familial conflicts?

Written and directed by Gavin O’ Connor, Warrior is a palpable sports-drama that transcends its genre. Like other sports films that came before it, the heart of Warrior is its characters. O’ Connor constructs an underdog story for his two main characters, making Tommy’s and Brendan’s journey interesting to watch. However, O’ Connor relies on genre tropes and clichés (e.g. down-on-luck guy) to add extra dramatic weight to the film. This doesn’t detract from the film, fortunately, thanks to O’ Connor’s smart implementation of two protagonists, instead of just the one. Watching the two brothers train for the big event makes viewers vacillate between who they would want to win: Tommy or Brendan?

In fact, the most engrossing aspects of Warrior are the broken relationships among the brothers and the father. The family dilemmas center on Paddy’s alcoholic past and his actions that came from it. While Tommy holds contempt for his father, Brendan has forgiven his father but keeps him at a distance to protect his family. Watching these scenes gives viewers insight into how well-developed Tommy and Brendan are. O’ Connor distinguishes the brothers by painting a picture of their past lives and motivations. Tommy, a veteran who has seen a lot of gore and violence, is soft-spoken and doesn’t really get along with anyone, while Brendan is a family man, desperately trying to provide the best lives for his daughters and wife. The family dilemmas become even more entertaining to watch when the two confront each other and contend in conversation as well as in the ring.

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Speaking of fight scenes, the MMA fights are among the best showcased in a film. O’ Connor and cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi film the sequences in wide shots and close-ups, showing each punch and kick in a spectacular fashion. Each fight displays each fighter’s unique talent as well as mirror real-life MMA fights. By staging these fights in a realistic fashion, the director and the stunt team showcase a wide variety of one-on-one fights. Moreover, O’ Connor and the film editors keep these sequences moving at a brisk pace. As a result, every fight unfolds and ends in tight, controlled sequences.

Performance-wise, all actors bring their A game to deliver solid work in their respective roles, especially Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, and Nick Nolte. Hardy delivers a subdued performance as Tommy. As the character, Hardy displays a tough exterior, but underneath battles pain, loss, and regret. Edgerton brings gravitas and heart to the role of Brendan. Perfectly cast as the character, Edgerton embodies the family-man archetype and manages to evoke a drive and desperation that will leave viewers sympathizing with his plight. While Hardy and Edgerton deliver great performances, Nick Nolte is the standout of the film. As Paddy, Nolte shows suffering and anguish through his physical acting. Some scenes call for the experienced thespian to convey a wide range of emotions and Nolte certainly does so throughout the film. Supporting players Jennifer Morrison (Tess Conlon) and Frank Campana (Frank Grillo) also elevate the film with excellent dramatic work.

Besides its genre clichés, Warrior is an engaging sports-drama with well-executed fight sequences and noteworthy acting performances.

 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

 

 

Images from:

  1. First Image: labutaca.net
  2. Second Image: Cinema Viewfinder
  3. Third Image: IMDB
  4. Fourth Image: Youtube
  5. Fifth Image: Cage Potato
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