Tommy (Tom Hardy) returns to his father, Paddy (Nick Nolte) after a tour of duty in Iraq. The two share a troublesome relationship thanks to Paddy's alcoholic past which resulted in Tommy & his mother running away from him. A reformed Paddy who claims to have taken the '12 steps' wants to make up for his past behaviour but Tommy would have none of this. Tommy who had once been a wrestling prodigy of sorts (trained by Paddy) takes up the sport again only to get noticed by a MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) promoter who enrols him into a contest where the winner will walk away with a $5 Million purse. Tommy wants to win the prize for a reason that is explained only later and forms an uneasy alliance with Paddy to be his trainer to achieve that.
On the other end of the spectrum is Brendan (Joel Edgerton), Tommy's older brother who lives his life away from Paddy, trying to make ends meet as a Physics teacher in high school. Brendan also moonlights as a bouncer and partakes in small MMA fights to supplant his family's meagre income. When he defaults on a home loan and his newly bought home is about to go under the hammer, he looks at MMA fights as a viable source of income, much against the wishes of his wife Tess (Jennifer Morrison). He approaches his old trainer, Frank (Frank Grillo) to get back at his peak but a series of coincidences put him also in the MMA completion, 'Sparta', that Tommy is taking part in. As the story progresses we learn more about the complex & strained relationship between not just Paddy & his two sons individually but between the two brothers as well. Thus when the stage is set for a showdown, we have two fully realised characters with each having high stakes at a loss that could prove utterly heartbreaking.
The emotional quotient is nicely understated even if loaded with an undercurrent of enough heavy dramatic artillery. The strained relationships arent presented in one go and nor are the resolutions offered complete or simple. Inspite of mistakes they might have made in the past you feel sad for each of them, hoping they'd get a shot at redemption.
The fight sequences are brutal, quick and at times awe-inducing in their simplicity. Punches, kicks & people fly in all directions without any over-the-top slow-motion shots to glamorize the action. The stunts feel utterly real and have to be seen in their bone-crunching glory. Particularly effective is the manner in which great attention has been paid to detail when deciding on each character's fighting styles which on the surface might feel the same but have nuances and signature moves which set them apart.
All the three leads are astounding in their performances. Nick Nolte hasn't been this good in a very long time and has one absolutely heart-breaking scene when he goes to visit Brendan in hopes of patching things up only to be turned away. That scene alone entails Nolte to an Oscar nod. Edgerton embodies beautifully vulnerability and quiet determination to succeed. It's a nuanced & understated performance. Tom Hardy though very good still falls a notch lower than the other two but comes into his own in two confrontational scenes with Nolte during the movie. The supporting cast too is uniformly excellent, particularly Frank Grillo & Jennifer Morrison.
'Warrior' with its promotion might lead some to think its a rerun of 'The Fighter' and while the two share a few common points, its strictly on the surface. The movie's unflinching attitude which isn't afraid to show raw emotion or violence is backed by superlative performances that only serve to make this one of the best films of the year.view less