Director: Gavin O’Connor
Studio: Mimran Schur Pictures
Those expecting a sports film to be about Something Bigger might feel let down by Warrior. In it, Nick Nolte plays the tumbledown, broken father of financially strapped family man Joel Edgerton and wild, feral, mysterious military man Tom Hardy who wind up competing against each other for $5 million in a mixed martial arts knockdown/drag out.
Warrior may not be The Fighter or The Wrestler, let alone Raging Bull, but whatever you go in expecting, the movie’s emotional, visceral wallop certainly works you over. Directed by Gavin O’Connor from a screenplay credited to him, Cliff Dorfman and Anthony Tambakis, the moody, spare film is set mostly in working class suburban Philadelphia and, aside from the obligatory training scenes and pumped up action, is at its best when it painfully details the two brothers rejecting their abusive, alcoholic father who is celebrating 1000 days of sobriety and is desperate for some kind of reconciliation.
Nolte, his golden boy movie past and looks savaged by decades of hard living, gives an achingly sad performance—even when the script sidelines him. The Australian Edgerton, as the schoolteacher forced by the economy to make ends meet by boxing thugs in parking lots, is also first class, never overplaying the sentiment in scenes with his two young daughters and wife (Jennifer Morrison). Brit actor Hardy, his character’s complicated motivations hidden for much of the running time, slams the movie with a sense of rage and anguish driven by unendurable pain. You don’t need to know or care jack about mixed martial arts because the film immerses you so deeply into that world it practically rubs your nose in it. If the bloody, beaten-to-a-pulp finale doesn’t get your pulse pounding while generating a lump in the throat, we don’t know what to tell you.
Despite the red meat action sequences, you don’t leave Warrior pumping your fist so much as touched by the lives of the three crushed, damaged leading characters. Moving, satisfying and elevated by a trio of powerful performances, Warrior connects straight to the heart and spirit.
About the Author
Playboy Contributing Editor Stephen Rebello has written many Playboy Interview and 20 Questions features. He is the author of such books as the notorious Bad Movies We Love (with Edward Margulies) and Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, the latter of which has inspired a dramatic feature film set for production in 2012. His most recent Playboy Interviews include Josh Brolin and Cameron Diaz.