Warrior is an inspiring movie, just not for the reasons it was supposed to be.
Touted as a Rocky for the UFC generation, Warrior follows two estranged brothers (Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton) as they compete in a mixed martial arts tournament that purports to pit the 16 best fighters in the world against each other for a $5 million prize. Hardy’s Tommy is a mysterious Marine who enters the tournament with the help of his recovering alcoholic father played by Nick Nolte. Edgerton’s Brendan is a high school teacher by day who enters the tournament against his wife’s wishes to avoid foreclosure on their home.
Director Gavin O’Connor reaches into the same bag of tricks he used for his previous effort, 2004′s Miracle, and manipulates the audience into rooting for Tommy, Brendan, or both. At least in my screening, he succeeds, as there were audience members cheering and clapping throughout.
Unfortunately, I felt like the film was held back by the movie it was trying to be.
The movie didn’t need the bordering-on-ludicrous premise that two fighters, let alone two brothers, would come out of nowhere and face each other in such an exclusive and lucrative tournament. You can sometimes get people to suspend their disbelief and cheer for a one-in-a-million underdog. But to ask the audience to do it twice in the same movie might be asking too much.
The irony is the fact that the movie’s strengths are outside of the fighting cage.
The acting is superb all around, with Nick Nolte giving a haunting and affecting turn as the father trying to make amends for a lifetime of sins against his family. I would have watched this movie even if it revolved around nothing else but the relationship between the two brothers and their father.
Alas, the brothers just happened to be former wrestlers and their dad just happened to be their former coach. And they just happened to be in the right place at the right time to somehow become two of the best fighters in the world. All in the span of 140 minutes.
Warrior tells us “Family Is Worth Fighting For.” I agree, which is why I would have fought for more of the family and less of the fighting.
Image via Lions Gate.