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Warrior - Review

Warrior

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

SCEPTICS might argue that Warrior really shouldn’t work as well as it does. But Gavin O’Connor’s mixed martial arts drama is a powerhouse piece of cinema that deserves to stand alongside The Fighter as an instant classic.

For sure, the film relies on many genre conventions, including the underdog element, as well as feuding brothers and estranged fathers.

But it does so with such rousing passion and energetic vigour that it’s flaws are easy to overlook. What’s more, the mixed martial arts element gives it a fascinating backdrop that hasn’t really been seen before.

Tommy and Brendan (played respectively by Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton) are two brothers whose lives have come to depend on how far they can go in a mixed martial arts tournament.

For the former, fighting represents a way to exorcise the many personal demons that bedevil him, the most recent of which extend to the Iraq war and a selfless act of heroism.

Brendan, meanwhile, merely needs the cash to pay the bills, especially now that his fighting has landed him a suspension from his day job teaching.

Looking for a way back into both men’s lives is their estranged father Paddy (Nick Nolte), a reformed alcoholic with a mean temper who is desperate for redemption.

O’Connor’s film arguably works best for those who know least about it, thereby allowing the intricacies of the plotting to slowly reveal themselves and build the tension towards its gut-wrenchingly poignant finale (thus, avoiding the spoiler-strewn trailer is a must).

O’Connor, for his part, gives all three stories the time they deserve, allowing his actors to slow build their characters and all the tangled nuances that come with them.

As such, Hardy, Edgerton and Nolte are mesmerising, delivering characters that are flawed but worth rooting for throughout. Don’t bet against Nolte grabbing a best supporting actor nod for his heart-on-sleeve portrayal of the dad, while expect to be blown away by the emotional intensity of the brothers’ journey: Hardy is a maelstrom of torment and a beast in the ring; Edgerton a hard-working Everyman whose every fight looks destined to be his last.

The fights, too, are electrifying, capturing the danger and exhilaration of mixed martial arts with the emotional drama of the two men fighting.

The final third of the movie is a genuine rollercoaster, as gripping as it is intense, and as challenging as it is, ultimately, rewarding. Such is it’s emotional intensity you’ll emerge from the cinema as drained as the last man standing… and equally as pumped to experience it all over again.

Warrior is adrenaline-rush cinema at its best with the emotional wallop to match.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 140mins
UK Release Date: September 23, 2011