Classic Review – Warrior (2011)

Title – Warrior (2011)

Director – Gavin O’Connor (Miracle)

Cast – Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo

Plot – Troubled members of the Conlan family, Tommy (Hardy), Brendan (Edgerton) and Paddy (Nolte) find their past and future coming to a head as the trio enter into a multi-million dollar MMA competition in which Tommy and Brendan are competing in.

“You don’t knock him out, you don’t have a home”

Review by Eddie on 24/09/2020

On paper Warrior appeared to be a very particular type of film.

Centered around MMA boxing, filled to the brim with testosterone, blood and sweat and a seemingly predictable underdog story, Gavin O’Connor’s sporting drama was released with relatively little fanfare upon release in 2011, critics warm to the film without praising it, while audiences mostly stayed away, no doubt with many deterred by its subject matter.

Those who were lucky enough to catch the film on its initial cinema run (a cinema experience I am forever grateful for having) were treated to a searing family drama that just so happened to feature MMA (Mixed Martial Arts/UFC) in it as O’Connor delivered his greatest feat yet as a filmmaker with three outstanding performances from its core cast of a then still building Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and an awards worthy Nick Nolte.

Many will find it surprising just how patient Warrior is in its build up, this is not a sports film that is determined to throw in as much action as possible, with O’Connor and his cast just as at home in the quiet affecting moments as it is throwing its audience into the ring for the brutal carnage that takes place and it makes Warrior all the more powerful in doing so as we begin to know and understand each of its characters, with no one deserving of the best outcome over one another as the flawed and believable humans try their best at what they know and understand.

Giving equal time to Hardy’s ex-marine and troubled wrecking ball Tommy, Edgerton’s financially burdened teacher/family man Brendan and Nolte’s recovering alcoholic/abusive father Paddy, Warrior creates a powerful vortex of emotion as the main figures, all members of the Conlon clan, build themselves up to compete in a multi-million dollar MMA championship that will change their lives forever but force them to confront their long-standing personal demons in the process.

In many instances Warrior has the power of a documentary, so real and raw as our vulnerable trio open up their wounds and confront their pasts and futures, Nolte in particular is heartbreaking as a man trying his best to right past wrongs but coming up against resistance at almost every corner as his weary sons find it hard within themselves to forgive a man that ruined their family and their childhood.

All this drama would be lessened if Warrior didn’t pack a punch in the ring to but O’Connor and his co-stars are up for the fight and come Warrior’s final 30 – 40 minute stretch were the punches, kicks and sweat come flying, there’s no doubt you’ll be on the edge of your seat, enthralled by the drama and the action in equal measure.

Final Say – 

Much like his recent basketball drama The Way Back, Warrior is a drama movie with sport in it, not the other way around as what appears to be a simple fighting drama turns into something far more powerful, a journey filled with heart, emotion and fist pumps. A classic of the genre and one of the last decades most deserving beloved films.

5 quickfire ring exits out of 5

16 responses to “Classic Review – Warrior (2011)

  1. “…critics warm to the film without praising it, while audiences mostly stayed away,”
    ~ That description is oddly perfect and likely applicable to much of (visual) media, not just films. How many streaming service’s content, video games, podcasts, and YouTube channels get the low-key critical thumbs up and yet not much else?

  2. Excellent review and I agree with your rating!! Nick Nolte was like putting icing on the cake in terms of the cast.
    -Steven Zorba
    Senior Writer
    FreeSportsMag.com

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