In recent years, movies like The Fighter and The Wrestler have raised the bar for movies about modern day gladiators like boxers and wrestlers. Though in these movies, bulk of the duels take place outside the ring, Miracle director Gavin O’Connor’s latest offering Warrior walks a tight rope between an intense family drama and inside-the-ring fight spectacles.
Warrior revolves around an estranged family of two brothers, and the strained relationship they share with their formerly alcoholic dad on a path to redemption through faith, looking to reconcile with his sons. Tom Hardy as Tommy is the younger son who arrives one day at Paddy's (Nick Nolte) home. But Tommy has no intention to reconcile but to only get trained by Paddy for an upcoming MMA tournament. Meanwhile, the elder son/brother Brendan (Joel Edgarton) is going through financial strife due to the struggling economy and the medical expenses of his daugther, with the threat of a looming foreclosure of their house as his profession as a Physics teacher is just not enough. A former professional fighter himself, Brendan decides to try his luck in the MMA arena lured by the quick prize winnings fighting in makeshift arenas.
As you'd expect, there's a major MMA tournament 'Sparta' with $5 Million as the prize money that lures the brothers to an eventual face-off with Brendon as the underdog and Tommy as the unknown fighting machine who has recently returned from the Iraq war under mysterious circumstances. There are some stellar performances from the lead trio, and the emotional punches are just as infused with intensity as the physical ones. Nick Nolte and Tom Hardy in particular share intense dramatic moments on the screen. It'll be a surprise if two time Academy Award nominee Nolte doesn't earn another one for best supporting actor. Tom Hardy also impresses with arguably the most intense and mature performance of his short but already illustrious career.
Warrior is undeniably the most refined film about the increasingly popular MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) sport that has so far been the backdrop of mostly cheesy action flicks, low-budget straight-to-DVD productions. But it'll be a stretch to herald Warrior as a path breaking film for MMA themed efforts, largely because of it's cliched plot elements with Déjà vu moments through most of it's running length. Cliched as it may be, Warrior is a fine film, definitely worth your time, because it manages to get it right for the most parts.