You Gotta See This: Warrior

Stars: Nick Nolte, Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Frank Grillo

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense mixed martial arts fighting, some language and thematic material, 2011, Action/Drama

Compare to: Rocky (1976), Fighter (2010)

This article should conclude my posts of “Awesome Movies from Last Year that made no Money.” The previous post being here. Two very different movies with no relation to each other aside from the facts that I just covered above. They made no money and I loved them both. Surprisingly, a lot of people hadn’t heard of Warrior (2011) although a lot of people knew of The Fighter (2010). I would’ve figured Warrior to do better with its PG-13 rating, but nope. Both are great movies about underdogs in the competitve fighting world, also involving strained families and the difficulty of achieving your career goal when your own family is enough of a problem already.

Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) is struggling to make ends meet as a substitute teacher. His real skills involve his past career as an MMA fighter, but due to a promise he made to his wife, he’s not a part of that life anymore. But after an amateur match in a parking lot gets him suspended from his job, the bills are piling up and he needs to make some real money for his daughter’s surgery. His brother, Tommy (Tom Hardy) reappears one day, much to the surprise of his dad and former trainer, Paddy (Nick Nolte). None of the guys have spoken to each other in a while but Tommy wants to be trained for an upcoming tournament, the very same that Brendan is entering. Throughout the film, the intensity in the ring is just as compelling as the intensity out of it, as the family is forced to deal with each other after making it clear they couldn’t hate each other more.

Words don’t this movie justice, man. Earlier in 2011, Nick Nolte had done the voice of an abused gorilla in Zookeper and I was making fun of it. For good reason, I believe, that movie is lame. Yet by September, when Warrior was released, I was blown away by about every scene he was in. Playing a former alcoholic (and it’s implied or more, other things) Nolte performs the role just as well if not better than Rourke in The Wrestler, simply trying to make amends with his two sons who despise him. If you couldn’t tell from the vague description above, this movie deals with some heavily thematic issues and had they thrown in only a single more curse word than they did, I wouldn’t have argued; without even understanding some of the scenes, this film could stress a little kid out regardless of whether or not they’re even been paying attention.

On one hand you feel sorry for Nolte, whose character of Paddy Conlon is continually verbally abused by his youngest son/fighting trainee, Tommy, and isn’t even allowed to see his granddaughters by way of his eldest son Brendan, for his past crimes. Yet when you see things from the boys’ perspective, it makes you feel like you hate Nolte for them. No longer kids, Brendan and Tommy make it clear they’re not going to take any more of the abuse they suffered as kids. Joel Edgerton who plays Brendan, only has two roles I’m actually familiar with;  Smokin’ Aces (2006) and last year’s remake/prequel to The Thing. He played his part in both of those to the best the story allowed but this is where he really shows his acting skills off. As a washed up, beaten down, desperate family man, whose only goal is make money for his family, his aim is virtuous and right and we’re sold that he should be the one to take home the title and all that it entails. Then you have to account for Tommy.

Tommy is played by Tom Hardy and if you haven’t been paying attention, Tom Hardy is getting to be pretty popular. As from Inception (2010), Hardy’s got several roles under his belt that if they don’t show off his chameleon-like acting abilities (Bronson, 2008, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, 2011), they’re roles that are just cool (RocknRolla, 2009). So what does Hardy bring to this already full plate? His character of Tommy is a hard one to swallow, being that he’s just so hateful. Everything Nolte does is done out of regret and the hope of redemption while everything Edgerton done is fueled by his love for his family and the desire to just move forward in life. And while Hardy’s character has beyond reasonable ideas as to what to do with his earnings should he win, he’s absolutely driven by his hate for his brother, his father, and even contempt for himself. Watching Nolte, Edgerton, or any other character deal with him for that matter, is an exercise in patience. We never necessarily reach the point of not being able to connect with Hardy’s character, as it’s made clear as to why he is the way he is, it doesn’t make it any easier to watch him interact with others. A perfect fit for Bane in the upcoming Dark Knight Rises.

“Who’s gonna win?” you’ll constantly be asking yourself throughout the film. You’ll root for each character at different times and it feels like no matter who takes the title, victory will be bittersweet. All things considered, the major credit I give to the movie Troy (2004) was that you felt as though either side had their reasons for fighting and many were valid. Warrior is no different in that aspect in that the two fighters seem to weigh in equally in just about every way, leading up to a climax that you’re not going to see too often

It sucks this one didn’t do well financially. It’s no wonder studios have a hard time believing anything other than adaptions and remakes will do well when they put out gold like this and people don’t flock. One theory is that people assumed it would be too violent for most moviegoers but that idea can be done away with considering how well The Fighter did and even under an R rating. Not too mention the popularity of MMA and UFC these days, I figured genuine fans of the sport and posers alike would be lined up check it out. But nope. Often times marketing is the reason, but not watching TV very much, I’m not to say how well word was spread. Either way, I can’t say enough good things about this movie, go rent or buy, as long as you watch it.

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