140 Min. | Drama – Sport | September 2011
IMDB Rating: 8.2
Director: Gavin O’Connor
Starring: Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, Joel Edgerton
“Warrior” may be one of the best movies of the year that no one sees. That in itself is puzzling. Mixed martial arts and UFC are in the cultural mainstream, in fact MMA is more popular than professional boxing. Director and writer Gavin O’Connor did the amazing “Miracle” a few years back about the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team. So he has the touch for inspirational sports stories. In “Warrior” estranged brothers Brendan Conlon and Tommy Conlon fight each other in the finals of the winner take all mixed martial arts tournament Sparta in Atlantic City. “Warrior” is an inspired story of family, honor, and redemption.
“Warrior” is a paradox of styles as inspired by its leads. Tommy is the AWOL Marine war hero from Afghanistan. He literally tore off a submerged tank door, saving those inside. Tommy plows through opponents with sheer rage and power. He is explosive technique. We witness this as he savagely dismantles world middle weight contender “Mad Dog” Grimes with kicks, punches, and throws in an impromptu sparring session. Tommy mysteriously appears at his Dad’s door step in Pittsburgh. He blames Paddy for the death of his mother. Brendan is the high school physics teacher and former UFC fighter. He and his wife Tess work several jobs to pay their upside down mortgage. Brendan gets an entry into Sparta to save his family home. He is smart and willing to take punishment to leverage his opponent’s mistakes—getting a tap out. Brendan like Tommy has no love for their recovered drunk Dad.
“Warrior” could have been leaner, as strange as that sounds. The mixed martial arts fighting are world class and many of the fighters are MMA stars. Former professional wrestling champion Kurt Angle is fierce and dominating as Russian champ Koba. His match with Brendan is vicious and amazing. “Warrior” authentically gets the brutality and precision of mixed martial arts. “Warrior” has a gritty atmosphere that is all about character and adversity. O’Connor seamlessly captures this in the simple camera shots and intimate dialog. He generates amazing performances. Edgerton is the delicate balance of compassion and focus. His Brendan is a good and decent man. Ultimately, “Warrior” is about forgiveness and love. It is one of the year’s best.
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