In a modern society where cheap comedies starring Adam Sandler as this and that is the norm, the 2011 film “Warrior” takes a unique approach to developing a perfect blend between a realistic family feud and an action packed collaboration of Mixed Martial Arts.
Australian actor, Joel Edgerton (Animal Kingdom, Ned Kelly) stars as Brendan Conlon, a former UFC fighter turned High School teacher, who, along with supporting his family, struggles to keep his still thriving passion for MMA intact while keeping it hidden from both his wife and the principal of the High School in which he teaches. That is, until he is approached by his father Paddy, played by Nick Nolte (Tropic Thunder, Cape Fear) who after many neglected years apart, tells Brendan that his estranged brother, U.S Marine Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy) has returned home after 14 years.
Upon being advised to apply for bankruptcy, Brendan decides to try his hand once again in the world of Mixed Martial Arts, and finds himself competing with his brother in a tournament known as “Sparta” consisting of 16 of the best middleweight fighters in the world, with the biggest money pay-out in MMA history – 5 million dollars.
With solid performances by Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Morrison as Brendan’s wife, “Warrior” proves to be an emotional rollercoaster ride, which provides its audience with a rare conundrum, who are we supposed to be cheering for?
Throughout the majority of the film, the main protagonist Brendan is the viewer’s favoured choice, but as the film progresses it becomes more conflicting once Tommy’s character is revealed to be an extremely personal and hidden man who begins to show signs of compassion and becomes more relatable to the viewing audience. The dramatic tension and complex character development contribute to the audiences overall confliction in deciding who to cheer for.
The film is an excellent collaboration of emotion, fantastic acting and a brilliant story. Special tribute needs to be paid to Nick Nolte’s amazing performance as the former alcoholic and abusive father Paddy Conlon, a performance which led to an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. However, the hidden gem in this film is Tom Hardy’s portrayal of U.S Marine Tommy Conlon.
Hardy is unequivocally believable as the distant and extremely personal Tommy, his scenes and interactions with his father are without a doubt the best scenes in the film. A scene which stands alone as a masterpiece and a demonstration of top tier acting in the world today, is the scene in which Tommy and his father are disputing in the casino after Tommy’s fight and Tommy tells his father, “Let me explain something to you: The only thing I have in common with Brendan Conlon is that we have absolutely no use for you.”
For the passionate MMA fans, the film features real life UFC fighters such as Rashad Evans, Stephen Bonnar, Yves Edwards, new UFC commentator Jon Anik, as well as former UFC superstars, Nate Marquardt and Anthony Johnson in fighting roles.
With Hardy’s amazing performance, as well as Nolte’s, Edgerton’s and Morrison’s, “Warrior” is a rare breed in the sense that it succeeds in incorporating two key themes that seem polar opposites, (compassion and fighting) and creates a true modern classic. The final scene in the film captivates and captures the entire film in a quick and concise manner, and is to leave many a movie-goer completely satisfied with the film as a whole.
by Liam O’Farrell