A former soldier returns to his father’s home after a lengthy absence. His father is a recovering alcoholic and former trainer. Tom allows his father to train him for a mixed martial arts tournament. At the same time, Tom’s brother Brendan begins to train, hoping the money from tournaments will help to solve his family’s financial problems…
Treading a similar path to David O. Russell’s The Fighter, Warrior focuses on an against-the-odds battle. The twist here, however, is that both brothers are competing for the same prize. Gavin O’Connor’s film is curious in the way that it shapes the two protagonists. From the outset, the fractured nature of Tom and his father’s relationship is made clear. Yet Brendan’s relationship with Tom remains ambiguous. Thus, as the film progresses, viewers await this non-violent confrontation as much as they await the fight.
Another facet which makes Warrior interesting is the dual protagonist form. Both Tom and Brendan are after the same prize, and both have good reasons for pursuing it. The brothers are both characters that the audience roots for. The inevitable conflict arises when they are pitted against each other. There is a tension in who to root for, as you hope both will be successful. The ending feeds into this, perhaps not giving the closure which viewers may desire.
O’Connor’s camera work is engineered to create a certain kind of atmosphere. The entire film is made up of handheld shots. This works exceptional well in the fight sequences, giving the impression of actually being at the event with the obscured vision and fluidity. Nevertheless, the constant motion in the other scenes can be dizzying at times. There is an intensity to the film that is unrelenting. This is aided by the method in which Warrior starts and ends, but also by the pacing, editing and camera work.
Tom Hardy offers a solid performance as Tom, in a physically demanding role. As family man Brendan, Joel Edgerton has the opportunity to show a slightly wider range. Nick Nolte offers an accomplished performance as Paddy Conlon, father of the two brothers.
Warrior is a fine sports movie, offering an intensity that has been rarely matched by films in this category.