Stars: Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Morrison, Kevin Dunn, Noah Emmerich
Ex-Marine Tommy Riordan (Hardy) returns to his hometown of Pittsburgh to train for a mixed martial arts tournament with a major cast prize. Looking to his father (Nolte), an alcoholic former coach, for guidance is tough enough, but Tommy's chosen path also is putting him on a collision course with his older brother, Brendan (Edgerton), a former MMA and current struggling parent.
The theme of this film is about attempting to have a 2nd act in life. F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said that there’s no second acts. That quote gets misinterpreted a lot by today’s society as you always seem to here people say that Fitzgerald is wrong and of course people can have a 2nd act. If you fail or do a wrong doing, of course you can come back and get a 2nd chance at life. That’s the American way! But what Fitzgerald is talking about is that no matter what, our past always stays with us. We can’t go back and do our past events over again. Our past moments always remain with us. Our life can only be a 1st act. There are no second chances or any sort of do over. Whatever happens to us, has happened to us.
So the three leads in the film just want their past life to go away. But it can’t. You have to deal with the pain that life gives you and the pain that you caused yourself.
All of the scenes in the movie are about that theme. Everyone is talking about things that have happened to each of the characters in the past while they are in the present. We never actually see anything that the characters are talking about, and that is the point. Those moments have been done, but everyone is still talking about them because they either can’t let go or they haven’t resolved the issue yet.
So all of this pain between the two sons and the father gets thrown in metaphorically into the MMA cage in the final showdown between the brothers. So the fight is not really about the physical battle, but about the emotional battle between the two. And this final showdown is executed brilliantly and no one sitting the audience has any idea as to what will happen. So the cliche sports film final showdown moment is taken to a whole new set of stakes that has never been done before in the history of film.
And that’s what director Gavin O’Connor has done with Warriror. He turned a cliche story (and a cliche title) into a masterpiece of a movie.
Warrior is one of those shocking movies. Shocking in a good way. In fact, shocking in a great way. As of this writing on September 7th, Warrior is the best film of 2011. This film is that good.
I wasn’t expecting anything when I walked into the cinema. Usually these pre-screenings are filled to the tilt as the studios go out of their way to make sure of that by over-booking the theater to great a positive buzz. This time, it wasn’t even 30% full as there was zero buzz coming from the people. So with that, my expectations got lower and I assumed that this film was perhaps what I thought it to be - a poor man’s Rocky; attempting to get all the MMA fans to the cinema to see people fight while an obvious storyline is created. Because that’s what the TV trailers and movie poster was telling me.
Instead I got a perfect execution of a story about a family torn a part by an alcoholic father, a dead mother, and two sons who’ve gone their separate ways. Even describing this story sounds a bit cliche and been there, done that in many past films, but this film is a whole lot more. I was deeply effected by this film as scene after scene tugged at my heart and I kept tearing up throughout.
Director/Co-Writer Gavin O’Connor drives home an excellent directed film as he really knows exactly what each scene is all about. Of course things are easier for him than most directors because he really got some excellent actors playing roles that could of easily been performed in an over-the-top or with obvious emotional beats. All the actors heighten the emotions of this film and take the roles created for them into higher depths than even O’Connor probably imagined. And the two leads also had to be in tremendous shape performing all of their fight scenes.
But for me it was Nick Nolte’s performance of the father that really makes this film. You can tell that he was a son of a bitch of a father without going into any melodramatic flashbacks. It’s in his eyes. He’s in a whole lot of pain and wishes for his son’s to love him back, but understands why they have a hard time forgiving him. He just wants for his pain to go away, but there’s no way it can.
Please go see Warrior. You won’t be disappointed. And I guarantee that.
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