Warrior

 

3 stars

 

Director: Gavin O'Connor

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Jennifer Morrison, Nick Nolte

 

Squaring up for a fight in Warrior

Arriving in the UK on the back of solid buzz and positive early reviews, director Gavin O'Connor's Warrior comes with something of a 'must-see' air about it.

 

Starring Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and screen veteran Nick Nolte, Warrior follows the lives of two estranged brothers from Pittsburgh, Brendan Conlon (Edgerton) and Tommy Conlon (Hardy), as they become involved in the world of mixed martial arts fighting. With their recovering alcoholic father, Paddy (Nolte) trapped in the middle and desperately trying to reconcile with both his sons, Warrior attempts to occupy the same territory as those other recent 'fighting family' movies The Wrestler and The Fighter.

 

However, unlike those two rather more successful examples, Warrior is far more convincing as an action movie than as an intense family drama, especially in its bizarre prioritizing of plot over character.

 

The first half of the film, in particular, suffers from a distinct lack of dramatic focus, leaving us feeling ambivalent and confused as to who we should be identifying with. Is it Brendan, the ex-high school physics teacher and father of three who's fighting to save his house and family from repossession by the bank? Or should it be Tommy, the damaged Iraq veteran who's gone AWOL and is fighting to earn money for his dead army buddies family? Perhaps it's even Paddy, whose attempts to make amends for his drunken family past we should find both pathetic and heart-breaking.

 

Girl likes boy in Warrior

Unfortunately, the net result of splitting the focus three ways is that none of these characters ever feel properly fleshed out or that they have a life beyond what the script dictates that they should do next.

 

Dramatic shortcomings aside, the cast all manage to deliver uniformly strong performances. Edgerton and Hardy in particular deserve enormous credit for the physical transformations they undergo, while it's great to see Nick Nolte properly engaged with a role for the first time in almost a decade. Here's hoping this isn't just a one-off reappearance.

 

Whatever Warrior's shortcomings as a drama, one area where the film undoubtedly works is as an action spectacle. And it's here, especially after the action switches to the Sparta fight contest in Atlantic City during the second half of the film, that director O'Connor makes his mark. Staging the various cage matches with flair and panache, O'Connor and his editorial team manage to conjure up some truly exciting moments, with Edgerton and Hardy giving it their all during the numerous fight sequences.

 

The fight gets nasty in Warrior

However, even with the impressive energy that the film manages to generate in its second hour, Warrior ultimately manages to squander its no frills virtues in the final strait. Rather than delivering a devastating knock-out blow, the film chooses the soft option and instead serves up a trite and clich├ęd denouement that desperately wants to be profound, but instead almost topples over into melodramatic self- parody.

 

That it doesn't is a credit to both Edgerton and Hardy and the integrity of their performances. Here's hoping that next time out they're in a film that's the equal of their talents.

James Peaty

 

Watch the Trailer. Here.

 

 

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