The fighting-drama genre has showcased some powerful movies in recent years. The Wrestler and The Fighter have earned multiple award nominations and wins. Directed by Gavin O’Connor, Warrior continues in this vein as two brothers, Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) and Tommy Riordan (Tom Hardy) enter a mixed martial arts tournament. Conlon needs the money to keep his family afloat while Riordan appears to be searching for a purpose after leaving the Marine Corps. Nick Nolte plays the estranged father, Paddy, to the two brothers, trying desperately to resolve the differences between them.
Warrior is a film about fighting that never loses focus of the emotional drama its stars are going through. Fights before the tournament are scarce and showcase the brother’s different styles–Riordan being a ruthless powerhouse and Conlon taking a more technical approach. Come tournament time the action is ramped up with hard hits, quick cuts and colorful commentary to give a realistic feel. Between fights we learn more about the relationship between the two brothers and their father who have all become distant from each other. Riordan borders on anti-hero status until we learn why he is fighting, and it becomes apparent the brothers can resolve their differences only in the ring.
Paddy and Tommy are both great, particularly when they’re together and there are some deep, emotional scenes between the two. Tommy is mostly soft-spoken, speaking little of his past or feelings, so when you do hear from him, take note. However, Brendan steals the show as the underdog family man in the fighting world. He struggles through his fights as opposed to Tommy who regularly leaves his opponent unconscious in the opening round, making each victory an emotional triumph. It’s surprising that, in the end, you want neither brother to lose, making the climactic bout an emotional ride that will have you on the edge of your seat and on the verge of tears.