VOD Review: Warrior
Warrior walks the razor’s edge of melodrama, but its dedication to staying in character yields a satisfying, emotional film.
Well, it’s another day ending in Y, so time for me to review another fight movie! This time around it’s Warrior, a 2011 film starring Tom Hardy, Tom Hardy’s massive traps, and
a roided out Conan O’Brien Joel Edgerton (Gringo). I really enjoyed this movie, but spent the entire runtime wondering if anyone was going to cop to how over-the-top the drama is. But everyone maintains kayfabe, and their dedication pays off in a film that hits you both in the jaw and the gut.
Tommy Riordan (Hardy) drops back into Paddy Conlon’s (Nick Nolte) life out of the blue. Like a ghost out of Paddy’s alcohol-soaked past, Tommy wants to haunt his estranged father, paying him back for the abuse that caused Tommy and his Mother to flee years ago. Once a state-champion wrestler, Tommy’s rage now vents itself in the mixed martial arts ring. A particularly vicious sparring session goes viral, and Tommy now has a chance to go pro. But he needs a coach, and Paddy was the only man that ever got the best out of his son.
Brendan Conlon (Edgerton) might not have surrendered his father’s name, but he did surrender the bitterness and anger over Paddy that consumes Tommy. Brendan has created a family of his own, one that is in jeopardy of losing their house. When Brendan seeks to resurrect his middling UFC career to make ends meet, his path and Tommy’s will end up clashing in a new tournament labeled “The War on the Shore”.
We Know (Melo)Drama
Warrior doesn’t shy away from emotional storytelling. Tommy watched his mom die of a slow, terminal illness. Paddy is a born-again Christian constantly on the edge of letting guilt send him back to the bottle. Brendan’s house is underwater because he mortgaged it so his daughter could get open heart surgery. Tommy went AWOL because his platoon died in a friendly fire accident, but during his escape he manages to save a unit drowning in a tank(???, yeah I know), by RIPPING THE TANK DOOR OFF.
I almost expected them to keep piling it on. Tommy wants to use the tournament money to build a hospital for kittens born with only 3 legs! But Brendan needs the cash to rescue the souls of nuns killed while giving hugs to orphans! Together they decide to use the money to reconcile with Paddy when they find out he needs a brain-liver-lung transplant because to atone for his sins he wrestled the Ark of the Covenant away from Ghengis Khan’s cyborg-clone!
The schmaltz-factor is saved by how dead-set on selling this story everyone is. All it would have taken was one line not delivered with 1000% sincerity to blow the wheels off. But everyone nails it. Everyone gave so fully to this film that Nick Nolte was nominated for an Oscar for his work in Warrior. And he was the character I was LEAST invested in! Warrior reminded me of some other overly dramatic fight film that got some Oscar buzz back in the day….
MMA By Way of the WWE
Warrior is indeed a fight film, so how were the fights? Unlike Rocky, this movie is a good fight film that doesn’t have to append “…for the fights being garbage”. The brothers fight in completely different styles, with Tommy being White-Mike-Tyson and Brendan being a more technical, tap-you-out fighter. From rear-naked chokes to gogoplata submissions, you get just about everything you could think of in an MMA fight. And as this film is wont, it also gives you some over the top stuff you almost never see in the octagon.
Characters tend to slam each other in ways more often seen in WWE matches (WWE Superstar Kurt Angle plays the main antagonist). They also use the cage for some parkour-esque escapes. Tommy also conspicuously loses his One-Punch Man abilities just in time to fight Brendan. Just like the rest of the movie, it veers away from cartoonish just at the right moments, and the overall choreography and camera work for the fights is strong.
Rounding Out My Scorecard
I had a few other thoughts on the film that lent themselves better to bullet points than paragraphs, so we’ll finish with a flurry before the referee’s decision:
- I’ve finally come to my opinion on Tom Hardy: he’s the light-beer version of character actors like Daniel Day-Lewis or Christian Bale. I’ve always felt something was off with his performances, and now I’ve now found words for it: Hardy always gives off the vibe that he is totally immersed in a character, but that character is usually “Just Regular Tom Hardy with a Mustache On”. I don’t hate Hardy, but he always seems out of place.
That being said, Hardy’s chosen costume for Warrior is “Yolked”. The 28 pounds of muscle he put on for this role would serve him well in his next role as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.
- The music is good, but once again has that trying desperately hard flavor. The final song played during the penultimate match was hokey. But I loved “Hearts on Fire” blasting while grown men hugged in short-shorts on a beach, so what do I know?
- My only real knock on the film was Paddy’s resolution: in a film of hit you in the feels family drama, his ending was too trite.
Warrior isn’t a perfect film, but it is perfectly enjoyable if you let yourself go with the flow. This review seems filled with caveats and minor quibbles; if I had watched this film in a bad mood I might have come away sour on this film. If you take Warrior in the spirit offered (coming back from the Gym to a few cold ones), however, you’ll probably enjoy it as much as I did.