Not since Sylvester Stallone in Rocky has a fighting movie had such an exceptionally profound statement to say to its own era. Warrior, directed by Gavin O’Connor (Pride and Glory), pits two estranged brothers against each other in an improbable but utterly fascinating mixed martial arts tale; a tale that combines alcoholism and foreclosure due to health care debt with one family’s dysfunctional past. Full of all the motifs and moments that critics love to berate in the action sports genre, Warrior embraces what it is and delivers a sweeping emotional arc that is as surprising as it is honest.
Anchored by a wonderfully fragile performance from Nick Nolte, Warrior begins with a 14-years-in-the-making reunion between a now sober father and his alienated son, Tommy Riordan (Tom Hardy). Riordan, now using his mother’s maiden name, holds a lot of bitterness and anger toward his father and blames him for the painful loss of his mother, who essentially raised him alone after she left Paddy (Nolte) all those years ago. At one time, the two men were a powerful team: Tommy, the wrestler, and his father as coach.
The miles that run between them run deep and close to the heart.
Returning only to use his father as a trainer for an open MMA Sparta tournament, Tommy hides a deep secret and keeps himself guarded at all times. Paddy sees this as a second chance to be a father and accepts. Tommy does not and refuses to see how his born again father has changed.
Paddy’s other son Brendan (Joel Edgerton), a high school physics teacher and former UFC fighter, is facing a crisis of his own. Unable to provide for his family in the face of mounting debt – due to health care costs and low paying wages – he turns to fighting amateur hour and fights for profit…until his superintendent finds out and he is put on leave without pay. Unwilling to give up and surrender his house to the bank, he decides to keep fighting and trains for the very same tournament his brother is.
Written by Gavin O'Connor, Cliff Dorfman, and Anthony Tambakis, Warrior reaches a stunning emotional zenith when the two brothers have competing fortunes in the tournament and, as we know they must, come to blows during the match to end all matches. Yes, they face each other in a steel cage. Two brothers with different histories stemming from their one abusive father and the choice that separated them for half of their lives. It all boils down to this one fight.
Warrior is a rarity; an emotionally satisfying sports movie that chokes the viewer up as often as it makes them cheer. Everything you expect to see in the film is there, just tweaked a bit to make for an exceptional film that defies expectations with rewarding moments and thrilling fights. Both intense and thematic, Warrior aims for the heart and hits both the gut and the head.
While it borrows from the formula that worked so well in Rocky and The Wrestler, Warrior ratchets up the tension with a healthy amount of theory from Aristotle; tragedy and tension work best when the threat is from the family. The subplots are full of prime moments that include their hidden secrets: Paddy’s battle with alcoholism, Tommy’s devotion to a fallen marine’s family, and Brendan's wife Tess (Jennifer Morrison ) opposition to his fighting again. There is also a wonderful continuing sub-subplot revolving around Bendan’s students and Principal Zito (Kevin Dunn).
Yes, the film has a montage sequence. It also has several moments in the ring and out of it of the brothers doing their very best. It’s maybe overlong, but well-developed and fully realized. These moments ring true. Like everything else about Warrior, it’s in how the expectations are managed that makes it a real crowd pleaser. The twists to the formula are hardly expected and, even the montage sequence, are dynamically played by a talented batch of actors and filmmakers.
Warrior is the fight stuff. Cynics need not apply. Amen.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense mixed martial arts fighting, some language and thematic material.
Director: Gavin O'Connor
Writer: Gavin O'Connor
Cast: Joel Edgerton; Tom Hardy; Nick Nolte; Jennifer Morrison; Frank Grillo
Genre: Sports | Action | Drama
Tagline: Family is worth fighting for.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I remember him, too. I remember him being very unmemorable."
Official Site: www.warriorfilm.com/index2.html
Release Date: September 9, 2011
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: December 20, 2011
Synopsis: The youngest son (Hardy) of an alcoholic former boxer (Nolte) returns home, where he's trained by his father for competition in a mixed martial arts tournament -- a path that puts the fighter on a collision corner with his older brother (Edgerton).
English SDH, French, Spanish (less)
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH (less)
Available on Blu-ray - December 20, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1; English: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); Digital copy (as download); DVD copy; Bonus View (PiP)
Playback: Locked for Region A
It feels very indie-like, but Lionsgate’s AVC encoded 1080p transfer (presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1) is all major studio sheen. The photography is grainy (maybe too much effecting here) and full of stylized lighting effects (outdoor shots are gritty green), but the deep shadows don’t bleed and remain thick with dark lines. Exteriors are bold and well-detailed and facial features are also richly marked with fine detail. Lionsgate provides three separate choices for its sound, but the rich English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is of preference due to its immersive quality.
- It starts a little languidly, but the commentary provided by director O'Connor, co-writer Tambakis, John Gilroy (the film’s editor) and actor Edgerton is fully detailed with great moments of introspection and details about the making of the film.
Man, this puppy is loaded with supplements. Let’s get to it. In the “Full Contact” mode, visual commentary is provided in a great picture-in-picture video that runs the length of the movie, where the film plays (in a small window) and the supplemental material – stitched together interviews with cast and crew – plays. It’s a nice feature, but not revelatory by any means. Follow this with the thirty-minute making of featurette for the background information missing. Lionsgate has also included a deleted scene between Hardy and Nolte and a detailed look at some of the fight scenes and how they were filmed. With a great dedication to Tap-out co-founder Charles "Mask" Lewis, Jr., Warrior is swinging hard to win over its fans.
- Full Contact Viewing Mode (140 min)
- Redemption: Bringing Warrior To Life (32 min)
- The Diner: Deleted Scene (3 min)
- Cheap Shots: Gag Reel (4 min)
- Brother vs. Brother: Anatomy of the Fight (12 min)
- Philosophy in Combat: Mixed Martial Arts Strategy (22 min)
- Simply Believe: A Tribute to Charles "Mask" Lewis, Jr. (14 min)