Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo, Nick Nolte, Denzel Whitaker
Gavin O’Connor, Cliff Dorfman
Out Now To Rent Exclusive in Blockbusters.
OUT TO BUY FEB 20th
THE HUGHES VERDICT
“Why are we here, Brendan? Why are we here? Are we here to win this fight? You tell me, ’cause if we’re not, I’ll throw in the towel right now. You don’t knock him out, you lose the fight. Understand me? You don’t knock him out, you don’t have a home.”
If I had watched Warrior when it came out last year then I would have put this in the Top 3 of my films of 2011, just behind the likes of Black Swan and Kill List. Why? Well like those two films, after watching this highly emotional tale, I immediately wanted to re-watch it and guess what? I did and after the second time I realised that I have just watched what is probably the finest sports drama of its kind since the Italian Stallion stepped into the ring with Apollo Creed.
The film starts with Nick Nolte and its a fitting way to begin because lets get the praise out of the way and say that Nolte is simply brilliant in the role of Paddy Conlon who after a lifetime of drink and violent abuse is now sober for nearly 1,000 days and is living a life full of regret. Driving home one night he spots the figure of his son Tommy (Tom Hardy) who is finally home after 14 years of no appearance. In a sparkling moody set-piece that gives the viewer a sudden impact of the family issue that is core to the plot, we are told that Paddy has two sons, Tommy and Brendan (Joel Edgerton), who are victims of a marriage break up. Paddy was an abusive husband and hated by his two sons but when his wife (their mother) decided to finally leave him, the two siblings chose a different life. Tommy moved away with his mother but Brendan wanted to stay, more so because he was in love to his childhood sweetheart Tess (Jennifer Morrison) who he later married and had two young girls with.
While Brendan had a family life and a steady job in the shoes of a well respected teacher, Tommy continued a life of misery with the death of their mother in which Tommy bare witnessed to the pain and suffering. Since her death Tommy more or less vanished, feeling betrayed by his brothers decision to stay and the treatment he suffered from his dad, but he returns because he needs his father’s help. While working in a gym, Tommy offers to spa with a local mixed arts champion that who is destined for big things. In a lovely little line which is a nod to the “Rocky films” Tommy enters the ring as the no hoper but soon shows brutal strength and skill by in simple words…….battering the shit out of the man they call Mad Dog. Seeing the potential he is soon offered a chance to appear in a winner takes all mixed martial-arts event that offers the prize of up to $5m Dollars. Its the World Cup of these events and thanks to someone filming the gym incident and putting it on You tube, Tommy becomes an unlikely hero, even more so when an unexpected back story appears that proves once and for all Tommy is actually a good man. Tommy decides he wants his father to train him because he knows he will do a good job and also following his instinct of ”better the devil you know!” and the two are reluctantly pulled together.
One the other side, Brendan is struggling. He too a former fighter, his daughter suffers from a bad heart and with medical bills and everything else piling up, Brendan gets the news that his family might lose the house because they simply can not afford the mortgage. While he too decides to return to fighting to make easy money, fate puts him in the direction of the same tournament that Tommy enters and soon they are both on the same path that will lead them to the fight of their lives.
Warrior is a beast of a movie that sucked me in right from the start. Highly charged and strikingly emotional, I could not take my eyes off each scene and I was wrapped up in such a energy charge not felt since I watched Rocky Balboa. How this did not do well at the box office is a mystery, maybe the poor trailer that gives away nearly all the plot put people off but for those who are still in doubt then I will say “please just give this a go!”
What I loved is that there is no bad guy! Both brothers are decent people who both want to win the tournament for different goals and the beauty of the film was that I could not guess how this film would end. I mean if you take Rocky IV for an example (or any of the parts 2,3 and 5,) when Rocky stepped into that ring to fight Drago there was not one person in that cinema who did not think that Rocky would lose that fight. Here we do not get that luxury and for me it worked perfectly and I admit I was at the edge of my seat wondering how this would turn out.
The fight scenes itself are spectacular. You do feel every punch and back flip as the camera weaves around the ring with a ferocious speed that just builds up the excitement and the fights themselves are brilliantly played out.
The acting on show is quite brilliant. Hardy continues his rise to stardom and towards Bane with a powering presence while Edgerton is equally impressive who is the opposite of the rage that carries his brother through each day, The film has a great supporting act with the likes of Morrison, Frank Grillo and Kevin Dunn, but like I said its the performance of Nolte that made me fill up with pride. One scene outside the house of Brendan where he spots his grandkids after years of not seeing them is a real good heartbreaking scene, a life of regret all pours out from the anguish within his voice and I admit that I felt a bit choked for a moment.
While Warrior follows the blueprint of the many films of this nature, damn just for a moment I thought the film was going to end on Nolte doing a great Miyagi impression, its the emotional weight the film carries that is the sucker punch. You may know what is coming, you may know what to expect, but the journey getting there is a fantastic path that ends up you believing that finally after all these years and watching inferior rip offs, Rocky may finally have a challenge to his crown because make no mistake, if you love these sort of films, then Warrior is a masterpiece….