Film Reviews / Indie Film

Warrior Review: Dir. Gavin O’Connor (2011)

Review originally published on The Hollywood News in 2011

Last year we had The Fighter and like Rocky in 1976, it gave boxing a fresh image for audiences to witness commitment, strength and the focus of the sport. Warrior takes those trademarks of realism and digs into the resilient world of mixed-martial arts and, more specifically, the journey through a winner-takes-all UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) tournament.

We open with a rough-looking Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy) turning up on his old man’s doorstep. Tommy’s father Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte) is a weary recovering alcoholic who once was a boxer and has now turned to the Church for redemption.  He lives alone, has been left to fend for himself as he pays his dues for not being the father he should have been. These initial scenes do start to feel like a story solely embedded in forgiveness and resolution but stick with me because whereas The Fighter dealt with family and an almost lighthearted edge amongst the troubles, Warrior becomes the darker, mirror-image version of that world.

Tommy (Hardy) bears all the hallmarks of a beaten man, haunted by memories of being let down by those who are supposed to be there for you when you grow up, your family. Hardy gives an intense, encapsulating performance that immediately gives Warrior a different perspective to your standard portrayals. As the movies builds, we’ll see flashes of Bronson and also some suggestion to the epic possibilities of him taking on Bane in the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises.

On the flipside of Tommy Conlon’s life is his brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton). Edgerton’s character, Brendan, has a UFC background but the family spilt and both brothers spiralled off into different existences. As Tommy signed up for the Army, Brendan quit UFC and decided to raise a family. Now a teacher, Brendan is hit by the reality of not earning enough and needing to fight again to save his home who he shares with his wife Tess (Jennifer Morrison) and their two young daughters.

You can’t deny that there is a lot of soul searching going on throughout but the relationship between the main characters is severely strained. There is one specific scene between Paddy (Nolte) and Tommy (Hardy) that could have been drowned by cliché but is instead emotionally effective and delicately played out.

In Warrior we do witness pure brutality but there is more to this film than one focus. Not only do we feel the passion of these disaffected lives, we’re also taken in by the intoxication and commitment of them. Furthermore, the fight scenes are near-to technically faultless and some of the most effective and genuine I think we’ve ever seen with this genre.  The grainy feel of Gavin O’Connor’s direction gives this an edge closer to Rocky than a biopic and whereas Bale and Wahlberg were either playing on nimble or resilient, Hardy and Edgerton encapsulate the essence of a driving force to exist and to prove the struggle is worth every second, and this is what gives Warrior a lot of power and a huge heart.

 Warrior was originally released in the UK on 23 September 2011.

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One thought on “Warrior Review: Dir. Gavin O’Connor (2011)

  1. Pingback: Haywire review: Dir. Steven Soderbergh (2012) | critical popcorn

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