Film Review: Warrior

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Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte in 'Warrior'

Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte in 'Warrior' © Lionsgate Films

Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty

“I thought we agreed not to raise our children in a family where their father gets beat up for a living!” “We’re not losing the house. This is our home. We’re not going backwards,” responds Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) to his loving and fearful wife Tess (Jennifer Morrison) after finally admitting to her that he has not been moonlighting as a bouncer but getting back into the amateur ring and MMA fighting in the new movie Warrior.
 
Struggling to make ends meet as a public high school teacher, Brendan reaches out to his ex-trainer and best friend Frank Campana (Frank Grillo) to work with him and get him ready for some real fights. His unlikely rise as an underdog sets him up to compete in the big tournament in Las Vegas for the biggest award ever in the sport. This puts Brendan on a collision course with his estranged younger brother, Tommy Riordan (Tom Hardy), a Marine who returned to their old hometown, Pittsburgh, and teamed up with their recovered alcoholic father (Nick Nolte) to train for the same mixed martial arts tournament. Haunted by his past, both from his rough childhood and the tragic events while serving in Iraq, Tommy channels his fury and hatred in the cage, making him an unstoppable fighting machine.
 
The stage is set for the two brothers to face off in and outside the ring to deal with their unsettled past and battle in the ultimate fight of their lives.
 

Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton in Warrior

Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton in 'Warrior' - © Lionsgate Films

Warrior is a compelling sports drama that strives to be in the same league as such films as Rocky and The Fighter but comes up short. This is a good film – not a great one. What is great about the movie? Nick Nolte’s performance as Paddy Conlon, the grizzled, old father struggling to stay sober and desperate to reconnect with his two sons. It’s hands-down the best performance in the film and one of the best of Nolte’s career. Here’s hoping he grabs an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor this Oscar season.
 
Tom Hardy delivers a memorable performance as Tommy, the angry, brooding, raging, unforgiving younger brother who refuses to come to terms with his troubled past. He is determined to punish everyone around him in and out of the cage. Joel Edgerton is solid as Brendan, the older responsible brother who has gone back into the ring to save his family’s home and to eventually try to make amends with his kid brother.
 
The film also has a stirring soundtrack and some very effective and overly violent fight scenes. There are some problems with the movie however, including its over-long running time of 2 hours and 19 minutes which could and should have been trimmed down to under two hours. The film drags in the middle and has an incredibly unoriginal and uninspiring training montage that’s stolen right out of ALL the Rocky films. There’s also a silly and forgettable subplot with Brendan’s students trying to get permission from the principal to watch their teacher’s big fight in the school’s auditorium.
 
Exciting and dramatic, Warrior is a fight film that will have the audience cheering and routing for both brothers in and out of the cage while struggling with the reality that there can only be one champion.
 
GRADE B-
 
Warrior hits theaters on September 9, 2011 and is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense mixed martial arts fighting, some language and thematic material.
 
More on Warrior:
Photo gallery
Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton video interview
News, trailer and cast info


Kevin Finnerty

Kevin Finnerty

Professional film critic since 2003 and a member of the San Diego Film Critics Society. Host of “The Movie Guys” radio film review show from 2007 through 2013. Film and television critic for Showbizjunkies.com and a movie buff since 1973.
Kevin Finnerty
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