Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Movie Review: "Warrior" (2011)

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Director: Gavin O'Connor
Year: 2011
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

A school teacher who is upside-down on his mortgage returns to MMA to make money. He joins a 16 man tournament with a seven-figure prize for the last man standing. Meanwhile, his estranged Marine brother enters the same tournament hoping to win the money himself. 

"Warrior" is directed by Gavin O'Connor, who also wrote the film along with Cliff Dorfman and Anthony Tambakis. It stars Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy as estranged brothers Brendan and Tommy Conlon, and Nick Nolte as their alcoholic father Paddy. Brendan is a high school math teacher, but is in serious financial trouble after the housing market crash, so much so that he is now upside-down on his mortgage. Desperate, he will do whatever it takes to make sure his family keeps their roof over their heads. Tommy is a Marine who has recently lost a large portion of his unit, including his best friend, who were all killed in action. Tommy is a very angry man who harbors a lot of resentment towards his father and brother due to past conflicts. Brendan also has issues with his dad due to his alcoholic past. Both men enter a 16 man mixed martial arts tournament with a multi-million dollar purse. Brendan is a former UFC journeyman who is a bit past his prime and is coming out of retirement, and Tommy is a former wrestling prodigy with devastating power and a natural athleticism. Brendan needs the money for his family, Tommy wants the money for his best friend's widow.

Some may read the description for "Warrior" and write it off as just another dramatic sports movie, but nothing could be further from the truth. As huge fans of MMA, we love this movie as it is one of the best current portrayals of MMA film. It still doesn't give a 100% accurate portrayal of the sport entirely, but it's the closest we've ever seen. As movie fans, we very much enjoy the acting and the conflicted family dynamic found here. Nick Nolte does an astounding job as a recovering alcoholic trying to make amends for his abusive past. He even received a much deserved Oscar nomination for best supporting actor, though he didn't win the statue. Tom Hardy gives a gripping, masterful portrayal of a son jaded by life and his mom and dad's divorce. We really believe him as a naturally gifted fighter and he sure as hell looks the part. Edgerton is equally stellar as a loving husband and father who will do anything for his family. He is a fighter who may have more heart than talent, which truly is the case sometimes in the fighting game.

There is a ton of palpable excitement in the MMA fighting sequences as Brendan is a regular comeback kid and Tommy is a human steamroller. The film showcases a wide variety of competitive submission moves, as well as plenty of knockout action. All of these scenes are expertly choreographed. It gets all the more exciting as the competition progresses and as we come to the realization that these two estranged brothers may have to fight one another at the end of the tournament. As their fights get tougher, so too do their internal struggles and their fight for acceptance and forgiveness from those they initially shunned.

"Warrior" is one of the best sports movies in recent memory. The story is a very human, compelling one and it'd be hard not to relate to the characters and their struggles in some small way. It has many engaging moments of drama from these strained family relationships, and a lot of MMA action from the sports aspect of the story. This is a wonderful, nearly flawless film and is one we highly recommend, even if you think it's not something that will interest you.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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