WARRIOR :: Oscar Ritual 2012
I first heard of Warrior in the middle of 2011 and immediately knew that I’d want to see it. I have no interest in mixed martial arts, boxing, or any other kind of fighting sport, but I’m a huge fan of both Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy, and I knew that their involvement will elevate any film. When the previews began appearing for the movie I saw that it wasn’t really a film about MMA but a story about two brothers who happen to face each other in the cage. What I didn’t know is just how powerful the drama would be. And that really did make for a better viewing experience.
Warrior is an outstanding film. Not only do Edgerton and Hardy bring incredibly moving performances, but the entire cast is equally impressive. Frank Grillo is a (surprising) standout as Edgerton’s trainer, and Jennifer Morrison gives a strong performance as his wife, but it is Nick Nolte who shines above the rest of the supporting cast. As the father of Brendan and Tommy Conlon (Edgerton and Hardy, respectively), Nolte is a man fighting to find forgiveness from his sons and repair relationships that he destroyed a lifetime ago. I’ve never seen Nolte give such a subtle performance as he does as Paddy Conlon, and had I not heard his name before seeing the film I might have mistaken him for someone else. It’s a career performance, to be sure, and one that anchors the film. Paddy’s failures as a father served to define the lives of his sons, and in their adulthood both Brendan and Tommy are walking reminders of how parents affect their children long after those children are on their own. In Brendan, Edgerton displays the depth of character that forgiveness and resolve can bring, while Hardy, as Tommy, shows what a powerful drug anger and hatred can be in a person’s soul. And yet, in all three Conlon men there is regret and brokenness, and that is the true power of this story.
The setting of cage fighting is a perfect stage for the drama of Warrior, and every scene is presented with an eye toward the explosive finale – a grand prix tournament in Atlantic City. Despite my lack of interest in the sport, I found myself rooting for the brothers and cheering (loudly!) throughout the fight scenes. I marveled at the sheer power of Tommy’s punches, and I was once again amazed at how completely Hardy inhabits every character he takes on. With Brendan I sat on the literal edge of my seat and balled up my hands in suspense as he (the underdog) struggled to win his bouts, and by the time the final moments of the film arrived I was as exhausted in my living room as I would have been in the audience of a live match. That’s great filmmaking! If there is a film comparison to be made to Warrior, it’s most certainly Rocky. Warrior is just as good as that 1976 Oscar winner, and its fight scenes are perhaps even better. I was impressed with every moment of this film, and I highly recommend it to anyone, regardless of their interest in sports. Warrior should not be seen as an MMA film but as a great piece of drama with layers and layers of heart.