VOD film review: Warrior
Chris Bryant | On 22, Jun 2013
Director: Gavin O’Connor
Cast: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte
“The devil you know…” “Is better than the devil you don’t.”
Warrior opens with stunning views of Pennsylvania, followed by Nick Nolte slowly pulling up outside his unkempt house to find Tom Hardy sitting coldly on his doorstep. Two bone-crunching, heartbreaking hours later, Warrior is over. And you don’t think: “Let’s grab a beer and watch some UFC.” You think: “I wonder how my Dad is…”
Warrior is, quite simply, a spectacle. The ante is there (a two-night UFC mixed martial arts tournament with a $5 million prize). The fighting is definitely, definitely there. But so is alcoholism, cancer, war, death, domestic abuse and poverty. It’s the sharpest of family dramas created with the deepest of thought and empathy-inducing honesty. And the unflinching extremes of bone-crunching violence.
Nick Nolte is Paddy Conlon, a father fuelled by two bottles of whisky and 40 cigarettes. Driven by love and regret, his estranged sons, Tommy (Hardy) and Brendan (Edgerton), are at war with almost everything they encounter.
Oh yes, do not worry, ye of little faith: people get punched. And kicked. And body-slammed. And put in endless, more complicated, positions of pain. Written perfectly, the characters become their essential selves when placed in the UFC cage. Years of anguish shine through the moment they touch gloves and the bell rings – even their respective styles represent everything that has gone before, choreographed to precision for some truly brutal moments.
Aside from the delicate plot and stunning action, the performances are worthy of any award that’s going. Director Gavin O’Connor was told by the studio that Nick Nolte wasn’t a good fit for the pining, one-year sober, universally hated dad. Thank goodness he disagreed. Nolte perfects a wounded look and, despite us hearing about his less than desirable past, never shows his vicious side.
That’s where his sons come in. The lesser-known Joel Edgerton is superb as the son who stayed with his father when his brother and mother fled and gave up fighting in lieu of teaching at a local school. Tom Hardy, on the other hand, never stops fighting. A character built of pure fury, he fled and joined the Marine Corps when his father became too cruel. Finding further pain there, he accepts an invite to work as a punching bag for the number one middleweight mixed martial artist in the country. He has spent his life chasing Theogenes, a Greek wrestler who attained nearly 1500 wins and not a single defeat. With characters like that at the heart of a tale, you can understand how the film got its name.
Warrior is beautiful. Well written, acted and edited, its tone of loss and desperation that sets the film apart from other sports dramas – the fights are stepping stones in the story, not the end result. It’s a marriage of inner pain and outer fury. A devil you should get to know as soon as possible.