Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Warrior

This is the story of two estranged brothers competing in a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) tournament. They're both dealing with a difficult childhood past, mostly related to an alcoholic father (played by Nick Nolte). And one of them is running away from a tragic wrenching event in Iraq.

Tom Hardy plays Tommy Riordon, a US Marine war hero who is trying to help out the widow of a buddy lost in Iraq. He wants to raise as much money as he can for her.

Joel Edgerton plays Brendan Conlon, a high school physics teacher with a wife and two daughters whose house is financially underwater and is about to be foreclosed. He is desperate to raise money quickly.

Both sign up to compete in the first-ever "Super Bowl" MMA tournament called Sparta, with the winner-takes-all prize of $5 million.

Tommy enlists his father, Paddy Conlon, as his personal trainer, even though he wants nothing to do with his father outside the ring. Paddy has been in rehab and is nearly 1000 days sober.

Brendan also doesn't want anything to do with his father, who has never met his grandchildren. Brendan is training with an old friend from his past as a MMA fighter.

Both Tommy and Brendan manage to do very well in the tournament. Tommy is cheered on by the US Marine Corp, while Brendan is cheered on by his students and principal, and eventually his wife Tess (played by Jennifer Morrison) who objected to Brendan's participation.

The denouement comes when Tommy and Brendan face off in the final match for the championship. It's a beautiful moment amidst the din and violence of the outcome.

Warrior is an unusual film in that there is a deep rich personal story here mixed in with a conventional (but beautifully executed) story of sports fighting. It takes the full 2 hours and 19 minutes of the film to tell both stories well.

I normally dislike MMA because I am opposed to the inelegance of "human cockfighting". But I found myself rooting for the main characters in the ring. And when the brothers stepped out of the ring at the end, it nearly brought me to tears.

Tom Hardy gives a fantastic performance. Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte are great, too. I was more into their personal story than the MMA tournament, precisely because of this.

This is easily one of the best movies of the year. 9/10.

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