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Movie Review: Warrior

September 9, 2011

Warrior – An Alliance Films’ Release

http://www.warriorfilm.com/index2.html

Release Date: September 9th, 2011

Rated 14A for distrubing content and graphic violence

Running time: 139 minutes

Gavin O’Connor (dir.)

Gavin O’Connor (screenplay & story)

Anthony Tambakis (screenplay)

Cliff Dorfman (screenplay & story)

Mark Isham (music)

Joel Edgerton as Brendan Conlon

Tom Hardy as Tommy Conlon

Nick Nolte as Paddy Conlon

Jennifer Morrison as Tess Conlon

Frank Grillo as Frank Campana

Kevin Dunn as Principal Zito

Maximiliano Hernández as Colt Boyd

Fernando Funan Chien as Fenroy

Bryan Callen as Himself

Sam Sheridan as Himself

©Alliance Films.  All Rights Reserved.

Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy) is trained by his father Paddy (Nick Nolte) in Warrior.

Our reviews below:

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Warrior Review By John C.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Directed by Gavin O’Connor (Miracle), Warrior is the story of two brothers, Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton), who are both working towards a mixed martial arts tournament.  At times recalling – even if not surpassing – such great movies as Rocky, The Wrestler or last year’s Oscar-nominated The Fighter, this is a rousing sports movie in every sense of the word.

Tommy is an ex-Marine being trained by their alcoholic father, Paddy  (Nick Nolte).  Still harbouring secrets from his time overseas, pent-up anger and the obsession to succeed drives his need to compete for the five million dollars that the tournament offers.  Brendan is a physics teacher, struggling to make ends meet for his wife (Jennifer Morrison) and their two young daughters.  On suspension from his job, he takes up at a local gym and plans to compete so that he can pay his mortgage.  We watch them train and struggle to rekindle blood ties, before the riveting and intensely filmed MMA fight in Atlantic City.

The performances here consistently allow the film to rise above the level of just another sports movie.  Tom Hardy is excellent, displaying a full range of emotions and anger through his facial expressions and bursts of physical violence.  We always remain invested in the character and wanting to know more.  Joel Edgerton also turns in a good performance as the quieter brother.  But perhaps the standout here is Nick Nolte.  Maybe channelling troubles from his own past, the veteran actor delivers a powerful portrayal of a recovering alcoholic in a role that will easily score him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

It should be noted that Warrior sometimes feels overlong at a whopping 139-minutes, with some of the more predictable domestic scenes in the middle providing a bit of a slow build up to the big finale.  But like all great sports movies, the last act of the film is outstanding as it delivers a rousing and sometimes brutal fight that leaves the audience with tears in their eyes and in genuine suspense.  The final minute is purely inspirational.  If moviegoers embrace Warrior in the same way that I did, then this could easily turn out to be a breakout hit.

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Warrior Review by Erin V.  

***1/2 (out of 4)

Warrior tells the story of Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy), a former fighter who after coming back from the Marines, ends up entering the huge MMA competition ‘Sparta,’ with his estranged and recovering-alchoholic father as his trainer.  Meanwhile his brother, physics teacher Brendan (Joel Edgerston) – whom Tommy hasn’t seen in years – also joins the fight in an attempt to win the prize money and keep his house from foreclosure.  When the two brothers end up having to fight each other in the championship, all of the tension between them for years finally has the opportunity to come to a head.

The sport here is MMA, but Warrior will be compared to other sports movies such as Rocky, and The Fighter (both boxing), The Wrestler (wrestling), etc., although it manages to be different enough to content with its own story.  The fact that it follows two fighting brothers, who you both sort of want to root for, makes for an interesting final act.  You’re hoping they both beat their other opponents and make the finals, but wonder ‘what will happen if they both get there?’

Some of the lead-up and establishment of the characters feels not quite as tight as it could have been, although nothing here really doesn’t belong.  And by the latter half (at the competition), the film really picks up its pace and keeps us on the edge of our seats.  I’d say that while it might not be the best movie of its kind in recent years, it still is quite good and ultimately, Warrior is a family drama that has all the elements of being a real crowd pleaser.

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Warrior Review by Nicole

*** (out of 4)

Warrior is a heartfelt drama about two estranged brothers, and a demanding sport that brings them together.  Brendon (Joel Edgerton) is a down on his luck physics teacher who has only 90 days to pay his mortgage.  Brendon turns to his former career as a mixed martial arts fighter (a bit like a cross between wrestling and boxing) in hopes to win the Sparta Tournament’s cash prize of 5 million.  Meanwhile, Brendon’s brother Tommy (Tom Hardy), is a war hero who is bunking with their estranged father (Nick Nolte) a recovering alcoholic who used to coach Tommy in wrestling.  When Tommy rediscovers his love for wrestling and takes up mixed martial arts at the local gym, he finds himself in the same tournament as his brother.  The mixed martial arts tournament is a rough and suspenseful thrill ride that leads up to a final match between the brothers.  Which brother will win?  And will the final match bring the family together again?

Warrior is an inspiring story about family forgiveness.  The acting is quite moving and believable in the role of family dynamics.  The story is well written, never feeling contrived or melodramatic.  The fighting is completely bloodless, along the level of classic sport movies such as Rocky.  Fans of family dramas and boxing or wrestling films will definitely want to see Warrior.

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Warrior Review by Maureen

*** (out of 4)

There have been numerous movies over the years that are about boxing, wrestling or martial arts.  The good ones give the viewer solid, believable characters to root for and well choreographed, exciting fight scenes.  Warrior is one of the good ones.

Tommy Conlon Reardon  (Tom Hardy) and Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) are brothers who as a result of family breakup are no longer part of each other’s lives.  When ex-Marine Tommy returns to Pittsburgh the first thing he does is confront his recovering alcoholic father, Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte).  The two are still at odds and it’s only when Tommy decides to get back in the mixed martial arts fighting ring that they reluctantly agree to work together with Paddy as coach/trainer.

Brother Brendan is a well-liked physics teacher with a pretty wife (Jennifer Morrison) and two adorable daughters.  When financial problems threaten foreclosure of this home, Brendan returns to the mixed martial arts world to earn some quick cash.  Working with his trainer friend, Frank (Frank Campana) Brendan quickly rises through the MMA ranks to qualify for the big July 4th five million dollar prize fight in Atlantic City.  Meanwhile brother Tommy is also rising through the ranks with Paddy’s help.

The contrasting training styles are shown through a split-screen montage, essentially a Beethoven vs. auto wreck yard scenario.  Also interesting to watch is the strained relationship between Tommy and Paddy.  Nick Nolte gives a strong performance as Paddy, a man fighting his own fight against the draw of the bottle.  Tom Hardy is also excellent as the angry son and brother, Tommy.

Warrior is a little slow-moving at times but we do get to know who the characters are and what drives them.  However once the story moves into the training sequences and into the July 4th big fight the action picks up and delivers an intense and exciting fight to the finish between the brothers.  By the time Tommy and Brendan are face to face in “the cage” it’s hard to decide which one you would like to see win.

Warrior really does pack quite a punch when it comes to delivering exciting fight scenes and a story with a heart.  With strong performances by the two leads and Nick Nolte, this is sure to be an audience pleaser.

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Warrior Review by Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

Warrior opens with Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte) returning home from an AA meeting to find his son Tommy (Tom Hardy) on the doorstep of his Pittsburgh home. As a kid under his father’s training, Tommy had showed promise as a fighter, but he left home and moved west with his mother, joining the Marines after his mother died. Back after 14 years, under his mother’s maiden name Riordan, Tommy wishes to take up fighting again with his father as a trainer, but wants nothing else to do with him.

Meanwhile, Tommy’s older brother Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton), who had stayed behind when Tommy and his mother left, is also estranged from Paddy for not supporting his own fighting career. Brendan married his high school sweetheart Tess (Jennifer Morrison) and moved to Philadelphia. Despite his Physics teacher’s salary and Tess’s two jobs, paying for his second little girl’s heart surgery has him facing foreclosure. He makes some easy money at a parking lot MMA (mixed martial arts) challenge match, but his victory seen on YouTube gets him suspended from his job. Despite his wife’s objections, Brendan decides to make more money this way, with some free training at the gym of his old friend Frank (Frank Grillo). Frank has earned grudging respect for his mindful style of MMA training to the music of Beethoven.

Harbouring wartime secrets, Tommy is angry and brooding, reflected in a fierce boxing style that pummels opponents into quick knockouts. Brendan’s sensitive nature and training are reflected in a more elegant wrestling style, enduring amazing punishment from opponents until he can turn a match to his advantage. By a slightly contrived but plausible series of events, the brothers find themselves at a $5M winner take all MMA grand prix in Atlantic City, and from 16 original contestants face each other for the final match. Their father is overwhelmed with mixed emotions.

Warrior is a pleasant surprise. Suspecting an attempt to repeat the success of The Fighter (which I still liked a bit better), I wasn’t expecting as much, not being a sports fan, much less for inherently violent sports (including hockey). For me, these films need a good story and performances with just enough sports action to support them, and Warrior succeeds on all counts. Co-written and directed by Gavin O’Connor (seen in a cameo as the fight sponsor), Warrior keeps us invested in the characters throughout, even during fight scenes that though necessarily brutal are not as gross as in Rocky, Raging Bull, or The Wrestler. At 140 minutes it drags just a bit in the home and school scenes, but the last hour or so in Atlantic City is riveting. The three principals all turn in brilliant performances, particularly Nick Nolte, whose own personal demons (like Mel Gibson in The Beaver) brilliantly inform his portrayal of remorse and recovery. Finally, Mark Isham’s music perfectly matches the action on the screen, avoiding the triumphalism of Rocky in favour of Beethoven’s Ode an die Freude (Ode to Joy) themes nicely weaved into his score.

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Consensus:  With strong leading performances from Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy playing estranged brothers, as well as excellent supporting work from Nick Nolte as their father, Gavin O’Connor’s Warrior is a moving sports drama that builds to a gripping final fight that is as rousing as it is inspirational.  ***1/4 (Out of 4)

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