Directed by Gavin O’Connor
Written by Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Tabakis and Cliff Dorfman
Starring Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte
Nick Nolte plays Paddy Conlan, a recovering alcoholic father to two sons who he no longer has contact with due to his past drink abuse. Nearing 1000 days of sobriety, he’s overjoyed when Tommy (Tom Hardy), his youngest son who left with his mother when he was young, drops by. However things don’t turn out that well when Tommy doesn’t forgive his father’s past mistakes. A martial artist in his youth, trained by his father, Tommy joins his old gym and after wiping the floor with the gym’s top middleweight Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter, he’s submitted to take part in Sparta, a 16 man MMA tournament to see who’s the best middleweight fighter in the world. The winner takes home a $5 million prize and Tommy plans to give the money to his Iraq war buddy’s widow should he win. Shunning the club members, he enlists his father as his trainer but informs him the relationship is purely business only.
Tommy’s brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton), works as a physics teacher in a Philadelphia high school. Struggling with debt and the prospect of losing the house he shares with his wife and two daughters, Brendan takes part in backstreet bar MMA fights to help raise some cash. Unfortunately, the school get wind of his moonlighting and suspend him until the next semester. With 3 weeks to go until his house is repossessed, Brendan reaches out to old training partner and trainer, Frank. As an ex-UFC fighter, Brendan begs Frank to train him so he can win some big prize fights and save his family. Frank agrees and begins to train Brendan with his other fighters. When Frank’s lead fighter has an accident, Brendan requests that he be submitted to enter Sparta instead and is ecstatic to find that he’s been accepted.
The two estranged brothers head for Las Vegas for the Sparta tournament and despite Brendan’s attempts to reach out to his brother, Tommy refuses to forgive him for staying with his father in Pittsburgh. As the two battle it out through the rounds and wipe out their opponents, it boils down to the final where the two brothers must face their hardest challenge yet – each other.
As an MMA enthusiast, I’ve been giddy since discovering this film was being made. Absolutely hating The Fighter, which was released before but filmed after Warrior, I hoped that this would be the fighting film I was looking for and it did not disappoint. Blending an emotional story in with the high adrenaline macho sport of Mixed Martial Arts works well and satisfies both MMA fans and film fans alike. The film includes some big names from fighting such as Rashad Evans as himself (UFC) and Kurt Angle as the mighty Koba (WWE). Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton rise to the challenge of transforming into the skilled fighters of the film, although Tom is decidedly the bigger, most powerful and ripped of the two. This hardly comes as a surprise as anyone who’s seen him as Bronson will know how well this man can beef up and gain muscle. Joel’s character is the underdog fighter in the film and his slight muscular build enforces this fact, as well as the choice of martial arts he decides to use in the Sparta tournament. Where Tommy knocks out his opponents with hooks, jabs and uppercuts whilst hardly taking any punishment, if any, Brendan utilises his submission techniques which are perfect for those who are smaller or weigh less than their opponent. In Tommy’s fight with Mad Dog at the gym, I was pleased to see Muay Thai being incorporated into the fight, with teeps, clinches and knees being used. Later in the film when Brendan fights, he performs arm bars and rear naked choke holds on his opponents and it was a thrill to know that these guys actually put the effort in and learnt the martial arts that fighters use in MMA. Unlike The Fighter, Warrior had tons of fight footage for me to gorge on. It was a bit frantically shot at times and the odd close ups were a bit extreme, however the fight shots were enough to please me as well as being accessible for non-MMA fans.
The running story in the film is how the two sons were raised by their abusive, alcoholic father and helpless mother. When older brother Brendan was aged 16, his mother and Tommy decide to leave and expected Brendan to join them. Brendan was reluctant as he had a girlfriend, now wife, that he was in love with and decided to stay with his father, though he decided to have nothing to do with him. This hurt Tommy, who had to look after his sick mother in her final days, whilst Brendan, expecting to hear from his mother and brother once they were settled, never heard from him again. Their father, played brilliantly by Nick Nolte, finally set himself on the right path and remained sober though his two sons continued to shun him which leads to an emotional scene late in the film. Tommy’s backstory gives him an interesting, strong character in comparison with his family man brother. Each actor gives his all in this movie and the plot is touching in stark contrast with it’s brutal fighting background.
If you enjoyed The Fighter, you’ll love this and if you hated the Fighter, you’ll love this. Regardless of your interest in the sport, this is a moving tale that men can proudly watch without being ashamed and women can watch too, if not just for the storyline and hunky men on show. If you’re into MMA, it’s a must!