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Warrior

2011-10-11 13:50
 
What it's about:

Tommy Conlon (played by Tom Hardy), the long-lost son of recovering alcoholic and former boxer Paddy (Nick Nolte), returns to his family home for the chance to train and fight in a massive MMA (mixed martial arts) competition. Unbeknownst to them, Tommy's estranged older brother Brendon (Joel Edgerton) also has the MMA title in his sights.

What we thought:

My experience of watching Warrior, a guts-and-glory/blood, sweat and tears/"Eye of the Tiger" boxing movie in the vein of so many others that came before, can be summed up in one line I came across in an online forum: "I don't care that Warrior wasn’t unique or groundbreaking - it made my heart happy".

Ah, yes. Heart happiness, that all-encompassing element that most of us tap but can hardly quantify. And it's a big deal in Warrior, a movie so pent up with anger, pain and resentment that depends on all the well-worn clichés that come with the fight movie – and still somehow emerges victorious.

So while Warrior doesn't offer anything new, that doesn't make it any less of an intensely emotional and pulsating couple of hours of pure entertainment. It's in that stark promotional poster showing off Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton's intimidating abs, fists not quite raised, their expressions conflicted. They look mean and tough, as anyone in the business of having their faces pounded to a pulp should be, but as we learn more about the brothers' tortured upbringing and their current struggles, those tough outer shells start to become a fitting representation of the defences they've had to build in order to survive.

The stakes are especially high for Brendan, a popular high school science teacher who is under a mountain of debt and moonlights as a fighter in parking lot battles in order to keep a roof over his young family's head. His wife and childhood sweetheart Tess (played by Jennifer Morrison) doesn't support her husband's sideline because of a previous incident that nearly killed him. But fighting is the only way he knows how to take care of his family.

And then there's Tommy, the hooded figure who arrives like a shadow in the night and lays waste to his opponents with a ferociousness that is both animalistic and graceful. The movie deliberately depicts Tommy as a mythic figure - wounded and dangerous, heroic and endlessly enigmatic - and in the hands of the Tom Hardy he is an impressive work of art. He barely speaks, operates according to his own rules even as his father tries to reconnect with him during their training sessions together. With his massive shoulders, sculpted for this role, you'll hardly be able to take your eyes off him.

There is plenty of unspoken heartache in the Conlon family, brought on by Paddy's alcoholic past, and Tommy is both amused and disgusted by the recovered Christian man his father has now become, full of the wisdom and contrition he needed as a boy growing up, but is now an affront to him as a grown man who's known nothing but heartache.

The cast play these family scenes with a heartbreaking sensitivity, particularly Nolte and Hardy who will surely attract awards attention for these mighty performances.

But there is also the little matter of a $5 million Grand Prix MMA extravanganza in Atlantic City to deal with, and this is curiously where Warrior starts to lose momentum. Much of the middle section is used to set up the world of MMA cage-fighting for those new to the sport, with too much focus on TV talking heads giving blow-by-blow accounts of the story unfolding before us.

What the we really want to see is two muscled men fight it out, and the tournament is a brilliantly staged spectacle that pits incredible strength and agility against pure willpower. Writer-director Gavin O'Connor doesn't make any excuses for setting up the ultimate match-up between the warring brothers. Which brother will you side with? Will the tournament help them heal old wounds?

Trying to figure that out for yourself is thrilling stuff that should have wide appeal, not only to the growing MMA fanbase and anyone who's seen at least one Rocky movie. This is bold storytelling that fulfils its promise as a bare-knuckled action treat, but it's the emotional heart of this film that packs the most punch.

Warrior is a surprising, rather special film.


A surprisingly effective, emotionally intense movie about two estranged brothers competing in a massive mixed martial arts tournament.

Read more on:    joel edgerton  |  tom hardy  |  warrior  |  review  |  movies
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(Comments may be edited or deleted at the Channel24 editors’ discretion)
Rene 10/10/2011 9:35 PM
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Incredible movie - very moving, loved the fight scenes. MMA is hardcore stuff. But Tom Hardy is even more hardcore!!
Ummar 10/12/2011 9:52 AM
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A very well-written review. The movie surpassed my expectations. I have to admit that it was quite moving as well.
Trish 10/12/2011 10:46 AM
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Brilliant movie and a lovely review that captures the heart of this film. I don't really like watching boxing and don't know much about MMA but I could not help but be drawn into this story. it deserves Oscars!
Karlien 10/12/2011 12:24 PM
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Saw the movie last night and it was awesome. The story has been told before but the way the director and actors handle the story makes it feel real and keeps the cliches at bay. The fight scenes are good and it actually has a brain.
Sam 10/12/2011 7:55 PM
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It definitely made my heart happy!!! So intense yet the relationships are treated with perfect delicacy. Must watch again.
EbiAllThe Way 10/13/2011 2:04 PM
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Movie of the year so far. Tom Hardy is a beast of an actor. Loved him in Bronson, Inception and can't wait to see him as Bain in The Dark Knight Rises
Jake Gouws 10/14/2011 11:59 AM
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EPIC movie! Loved every minute. I consider myself a real man's man but I got really teary eyed at the end there not gonna lie
Martin 10/18/2011 1:39 AM
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I'm so glad Ilan or that 5FM girl didn't review this film. They would've wanted something like a drawn out Cohen's Bros snore-fest that drags its ass for hours with painful dialogue, no action and no heart. WARRIOR IS AWESOME & THANKFULLY REVIEWED BY A CRIT WHO APPRECIATES ITS MERITS AND THE AUDIENCE IT'S INTENDED FOR.
Bert 10/18/2011 7:13 AM
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Critic is spot on and this is one if not the best movie of the year. Will buy it on Blu Ray.
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