Warrior (12A): Reviewed
In January 2011 we were treated to ‘The Fighter’ starring Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg as pugilistic brothers. The film was based on a true story and earned Bale an Oscar. ‘Warrior’ also follows the story of two brothers who are professional fighters but in a fictional tale in the mould of ‘Rocky’. Yet this tale is more relevant to the 21st century as it introduces new audiences to the adrenalin fuelled combat sport of Mixed Martial Arts.
Ex-Marine and cage fighter Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy) is the prodigal son who returns to his home town of Pittsburgh to prepare for “Sparta” the ultimate MMA tournament . The event is to be held in Atlantic City and billed as the ‘War on the shore’ with a massive winner takes all prize of $5 million.
Tommy left Pittsburgh with his Mother fourteen years ago to escape from his abusive alcoholic Father Paddy (Nick Nolte) who has now found solitude in God and has been dry for many years. Tommy also left behind his older brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton) and they haven’t spoken since. Brendan couldn’t be more opposite to Tommy. He retired from UFC (which we all know stands for Ultimate Fighting Championship...come on keep up) and now works as a physics teacher and is happily married with three children. However, due to an imminent foreclosure on his mortgage Brendan also sets his sights on the Sparta prize money.
The main reason for Tommy’s home visit is to ask his Father Paddy to train him for Sparta, as Tommy remarks to his Father “that much you were good at”. Tommy also makes it perfectly clear that this reunion doesn’t mean that he forgives him.
The film is directed by Gavin O’Connor who he also wrote the screenplay. He even gives himself an unaccredited role as J.J. Riley, promoter of the Sparta MMC tournament. O’Conner likes the use of extreme close up shots of the main characters which works well and gives a kind of claustrophobic feel to a film about getting up close and personal in a confined arena. As with any good fighting film we are treated to the obligatory training montage segment with use of the old split screen process which was favoured in the mid 60s & 70s in such films as Thomas Crown Affair (68) and Le Mans (71), both coincidentally starring the King of cool Steve McQueen.
The actual fight scenes look surprisingly real and you could easily believe that both Hardy and Edgerton were seasoned MMA fighters, although more so Hardy, who looks extremely imposing and you wouldn’t like to spill beer on his lap. He seems to have bulked up even more for ‘Warrior’ than he did for his role in Bronson (2008). This film is more than just gratuitous annihilation of your opponent; it’s also a tense family drama with some excellent performances from Hardy, Edgerton and Nolte.
Tom Hardy seems to be the man of the moment in Hollywood. His role as Eames in Inception (2010) really propelled him into the mainstream in Tinsel town but I’m not sure that people would recognise him if he walked past them in the street as he has this chameleon approach to his craft. He never looks the same in any one movie. With his thick black hair and broody looks as Tommy Conlon he put me in mind of Keanu Reeves on Steroids.
At the start of the film it looks as though this is going to be all about Tommy and the battle with his own demons as well as his battle in the ring but it develops into a parallel storyline that also follows his brother’s emotional journey. Joel Edgerton more than holds his own in his first real A-list movie. Edgerton, an Aussie (he had me fooled) last seen in the sleeper hit Animal Kingdom (2011) about a criminal family in Australia, has a great deal of presence and is certainly one to watch. Soon to be seen in the prequel of The Thing due out in December this year.
My verdict? Despite the macho title this is a well crafted story to be enjoyed by all ‘Guys n Girls’. And even though it follows a familiar formula it will still have you on the edge of your seat particularly in the final half hour.
An entertaining four out of five stars.
In Cinemas September 23