“Family is worth fighting for.”
Director: Gavin O’Connor
Cast: Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, Joel Edgerton
Synopsis: The youngest son of an alcoholic former boxer returns home, where he’s trained by his father for competition in a mixed martial arts tournament – a path that puts the fighter on a collision course with his older brother.
WARNING – This review contains SPOILERS!
Teacher Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) is a down on his luck teacher faced with his family’s eviction from their home because they can’t meet the payments after paying for their sick daughter’s heart surgery. His brother, Tommy (Tom Hardy), is equally troubled, having returned to the States following his desertion from his army unit in Iraq. Estranged from one another, the two brothers both initially refuse to have anything to do with their father Paddy (Nick Nolte), a recovering alcoholic who mistreated their now deceased mother. Independently of one another, both Tom and Brendan decide to enter an MMA (mixed martial arts) tournament called Sparta, which claims to pit the 16 hardest men in the world against each other. Will Tom and Brendan bury their differences? Will Tom and Paddy bury their differences? Will Brendan and Paddy bury their differences? Will Warrior’s storyline ever rise above the quality of a 1930s B-movie?
There is little more discouraging about the future of cinema than the success of badly written movies like Warrior. Buoyed immeasurably by terrific performances from its three leading men, the movie destroys its credibility by countless plot holes and a fatal determination to take itself completely seriously despite a melodramatic storyline that never once departs from a drearily predictable path. Not for one moment do we doubt that both brothers will make it to Sparta’s winner-take-all final bout, even though most of their opponents are depicted as invincible Neanderthals who despatch their previous opponents in a matter of seconds. And despite the fact that the military police – who were presumably too stupid to inform or question Tommy’s family about his desertion – finally catch up with their man on the eve of that final bout.
Warrior boasts three screenwriters, director Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis and Cliff Dorfmann, which is often a sign of a movie that needed re-writes. This movie certainly bears the hallmarks of a piece of work that refused to gel. An example of the derivative nature of their work comes in the character of Brendan’s loyal but long-suffering wife Tess (Jennifer Morrison) whose initial point-blank resistance to his decision to return to the ring is diminished with each successful bout so that, by the time of the big one, she makes an ’unexpected’ appearance at a ringside seat so that she can mouth ’I love you’ to her battered hero. Heart-warming stuff back in 1937, this kind of sentimental rubbish has no place in a 21st-Century movie aimed at intelligent adults.
O’Connor makes a better director than a screenwriter, and the fight scenes are realistically filmed, even though they’re clearly designed to appeal to MMA fans and pub brawlers. The final fight, in which Tommy and Brendan go head-to-head, is painful to watch; not, as O’Connor must have intended, because of the emotionally stressful situation the boys find themselves in, but because the time spent on the fight is so drawn out as to be interminable.
Just tap out, fella, so we can all go home…