‘Warrior’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated February 10th, 2012 at 12:18 pm,

Warrior Movie Tom Hardy Joel Edgerton Warrior Review

Screen Rant’s Ben Kendrick reviews Warrior

The history of movie-making is littered with great, and not-so-great, fighting films – where one man (or woman) trains and trains to become a champion in the ring. Sometimes these fierce competitors succeed – and other times (as is the case in several iconic films) they don’t – but either way, audiences have been entertained for decades by the human drama behind everyday people who choose to use pure physical prowess and strength to rise above their less-than-satisfying lives.

As a result, it’s no surprise that even before its release, there was already plenty of buzz surrounding Gavin O’Connor’s film Warrior, about two brothers (played by Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy) who compete in the rough and tumble world of mixed martial arts. O’Connor is, of course, best known for his 2004 film, Miracle, which follows the true-story of the U.S. Men’s Hockey team competing at the 1980 Winter Olympics. Does O’Connor bring the same inspirational sports and character drama to the MMA ring with Warrior?

There’s no need to mince words – O’Connor overwhelmingly succeeds with Warrior and delivers one of the best films of 2011. While the storyline may be familiar to movie fans who frequent underdog character dramas, the performances, as well as the editing of the film’s fight sequences, make Warrior a winner inside, and outside, of the ring.

Unlike O’Connor’s Miracle, Warrior is mostly fiction, following the respective journeys of two brothers – ex-marine Tom Conlon (Hardy) and former MMA fighter-turned High School physics teacher, Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) – in their bids for a national mixed martial arts championship. Outside of the tournament, dramatic tension is equally high between the two, as younger sibling Tom continues to harbor animosity toward his older brother because Brendan refused to abandon his abusive/alcoholic father, Paddy (Nick Nolte), years earlier. At the same time, Brendan is trying to make-up for Paddy’s past mistakes (by being a good father and husband) – but despite a strong dedication to his family, desperate times, as well as Brendan’s passion for fighting, pull him back to the danger and excitement of the MMA ring.

Warrior Tom Hardy Nick Nolte Warrior Review

'Warrior' starring Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte

As mentioned, the overarching narrative plays out in a relatively familiar storyline, and audiences will easily be able to forecast outcomes and character progressions. However, solid performances coupled with “authentic” character moments make even the most predictable elements of the film very enjoyable to watch. The film’s structure, not to mention marketing, sap a lot of the tension out of the fight scenes, since everyone in the audience knows that the two brothers are locked into a collision course. As a result, each subsequent bout becomes less of a “Will he? Won’t he?” question in favor of “How will he?”

No doubt it’s a tricky balance – setting-up compelling character drama as well as maintaing uncertainty in the ring – and it’s impossible for O’Connor to have his cake and eat it too. That said, the director’s choice to put character drama first is a sound one; grounding the audience in believable and evocative people still makes the unfolding events compelling – even if moviegoers can forecast how said events will play-out.

It certainly helps that the fight scenes are some of the most exciting and heavy-hitting brawls depicted on-screen in a long time. O’Connor successfully captures the strategy, variety, and brutality of mixed martial arts fighting – as well as differentiating between the divergent “styles” of the two brothers. As a result, next to an abundance of boxing movies, Warrior will present filmgoers with a fresh and exciting experience. This isn’t to say that the combat scenes are over-the-top action (since they are all very realistic), but mixed with the established character drama and hard-hitting choices in the editing room, O’Connor manages to deliver plenty of thrills in the ring.

Warrior Joel Edgerton Jennifer Morrison Warrior Review

Jennifer Morrison and Joel Edgerton in 'Warrior'

Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton are especially impressive, balancing the arresting violence of an MMA tournament cage with their respective real-world stories. The supporting cast – which includes Jennifer Morrison (How I Met Your Mother), Frank Grillo (Prison Break), and Kevin Dunn (Transformers) – offers up a strong mix of drama and comedy relief – but without question, Nick Nolte (most recently seen in the Arthur remake) delivers a noteworthy performance as Paddy Conlon, a man who is desperately trying to reconnect with his estranged, and guarded, sons. Given the bitterness and animosity between the brothers, Nolte’s role in the film is especially important, and the veteran actor rises to the occasion, taking ownership of several difficult scenes to communicate heartbreaking regret and clumsy attempts at reconciliation without ever raising his voice.

Despite plenty of compelling character drama and superior performances from nearly everyone involved, some audience members may feel that Warrior doesn’t necessarily make good on everything it sets up. No doubt O’Connor attempted to avoid undermining the complexity of the characters by foregoing the lure of tying a pretty bow on every single dangling plot thread, but a few major story arcs are a bit too subtle – or, in a couple instances, go entirely unresolved. Some film fans might argue that O’Connor just didn’t want to spoon feed his viewers – but there’s a difference between leaving a story up for interpretation and flat-out neglecting dangling threads. The closing moments of the film are definitely poetic, but once the credits roll, it’s easy to see that certain story beats were pushed aside just to finish the movie off with high-energy.

That said, the central storyline between Tom and Brendan is enough to offer a satisfying payoff, even if minor characters are left flailing in their wake. Much like the film’s protagonists, Warrior is a brutal and brave piece of cinema that will keep moviegoers on the edge of their seats, scene after scene, and round after round.

If you’re still on the fence about Warrior, check out the trailer below:

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[poll id="189"]

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Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick - and let us know what you thought of the film below:

Warrior is now in theaters.

Our Rating:

4.5 out of 5
(Must-See)

TAGS: warrior

53 Comments

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  1. Very good read, i’ll be checking this film out as soon as possible.

  2. I love how you write thorough, analytical and thoughtful reviews without giving away the plot. A very rare skill. Some dumb reviewers just give a synopsis instead of a review, giving away the story without providing any insight.

    Well done.

    • Thanks. Ya, we definitely try and avoid spoilers – seems idiotic to recommend a film but ruin half of it for readers in the process.

  3. Thanks for the review, sounds great. I’ll definately check it out.

  4. Saw the sneak peak last Sunday. Tom Hardy is a BAD Mofo!

  5. Saw the sneak peak last Sunday. Tom Hardy is a one BAD dude!

  6. Bane Bane Matalo Matalo
    Bane Bane Matalo Matalo
    Bane Bane Matalo Matalo

  7. Had two chances to screen this movie a few months ago and I didn’t because it’s hard to tell if a movie is going to be good now a days. Had a tough time accepting the premise of this one because of past MMA movies that turned out to be garbage. -woulda, coulda, shoulda.
    -They didn’t do very good advertising for this one, I’ll check it out now after reading your review. Thanks

  8. Thanks Ben. That seals the deal for me.

  9. Ok, there are people making comparisons between the two, so I’ll go ahead and ask. In your opinion, which is better, this movie or The Fighter? Don’t worry, I understand that even if The Fighter is better you’re still recommending this film, I’m not making my judgment based on that, just curious.

    • Ken -

      Personally, I enjoyed this one more than “The Fighter.” Mainly because the actual sequences in the ring got my audience (and myself) wound-up.

      Ironically, the characters are a little less out there than the “Based on a true story” people in The Fighter.

      As you mentioned, I’d recommend both of them but, if I had to choose, I’d say this one was (at least) more entertaining.

      • Just came back from watching it. In terms of the fights, obviously Warrior has it hands down, but in terms of the character drama and the level of acting, I still think The Fighter is better. But yah, this is more of an entertaining action movie, if you consider a fighting movie an action movie, and The Fighter was more of a drama. Well, I guess this would fall under the sports drama category while The Fighter was more of a regular drama, the fights in that movie were just part of the setting while they played a more important role in Warrior. I’ll have to say though, Tom Hardy’s character annoyed me in this movie just as much as the mother did in The Fighter…

  10. I saw an early screening last Sunday – I thought it was great. I would go back this weekend see it again! Story was really solid, actors were great, action was exceptional – it was a great movie!!!!

  11. I thought it put the fighter to shame!

  12. Could you guys (Screenrant) make a “What did you think of…” poll of a movie that doesn’t exist just to see if people would vote on it. No way, if anyone other than a troll could vote this movie to a 1 star and I should know cause in Norway there’s loads of them. Just watch Troll Hunter.

    Great review, really felt like this was something I should see (again) and you didn’t even reveal anything.

    • Mag – I’ve often wondered the same thing – especially when movies that are clearly terrible get overwhelming 5/5 ratings in our polls.

      Either all the studio PR people are trained to off-set the polls to make the overarching consensus more positive (or maybe negative, in the case of rival studios competing for an opening weekend) – or there are a lot of people who have a pretty low expectations at the cinema these days.

      I’m kidding of course but… still baffling. Your idea might be a good experiment.

    • Mag,

      FYI, when I go to IMDB.com and look at the ratings I automatically ignore the 10s and the 1s. :)

      Vic

  13. It sounds so promising and I will definitely see this soon on the big screen.

  14. I’ve been waiting to see this movie for so long and I’m so excited I finally get to this weekend. I’m not only a fan of Tom hardy, but I’m a huge MMA fan and I’m happy to finally see it making it in the mainstream and even having a good film based on it.

  15. Just saw this yesterday, thought it was awesome! The fight scenes were def some of the best i’ve seen in any kind of similar genre films in a long time – and it doesn’t hurt that tom hardy is a beast! my primary complaint is that they didn’t show more of the training sequences with the leads and their respective trainers. That was a point where i was expecting (MILD SPOILER ALERT) nick nolte to really shine. It’s all good though because the movie still rocked

  16. I hated the preview…..Because it was a preview….It’s the old Lays potatochip concept…You just can’t have one…..On the other hand I was already sold from the review….Haven’t seen the Fighter so maybe I’ll sse them both around the same time…

  17. Just came from seeing it, and I have to say, I think I just saw the next Oscar winner (at least a nomination). I would agree with the 4.5/5, and the .5 is because of shaky-cam during the fights. I didn’t know Nick Nolte still had it in him; he was great. And I have to agree with the above comments concerning this film vs. The Fighter; both films are great but Warrior is better.

  18. Another dead-on-the-money review from Ben K. I just saw the film and agree with the review 100%.

    Awesome flick. Go see it and tell your friends.

    Vic

  19. Excellent movie! Nolte turned in a performance as powerful (and heartbreaking) as the collection of fighters assembled for the matches. I enjoyed all the main characters, but, without a doubt Nick Nolte walked away the winner.

  20. I’m guessing it goes like this. 2 brothers hating each other the whole movie. Finally meeting in the ring, Joel Edgerton wins, happy ending. I can’t wait for a movie to be made where the ending is exciting and nothing what we expected. Every movie I see today I can call the ending. Good guy wins, Bad guy loses. Even if a movie today has a sad ending, it’s usually clear that its going to happen. NOTHING exciting. ONLY EXCEPTION, ‘INCEPTION’!!!!

    • Not at all.

      Both characters are good, Tom Hardy’s is portrayed in a more aggressive way. Conflict on the screen comes from both characters being good, and both having good, honest reasons to win fights.

      Ending doesn’t end up happy. In fact, the ending has nothing to do with who wins. That makes this film different than any other fighting film, because who wins no longer matters. It’s about facing your pain.

      Watch it.

  21. I just got back from watching Warrior. I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen in every scene. The fights are perfectly performed. So realistic. Inspiring, uplifting and emotional. I give it 5 our of 5.

    • loved Warrior, saw it last night, I really hope that they will make a sequel. I want to see what happens with the brothers and the Dad. 5 stars all the way.

  22. I really enjoyed the movie, but to me, The Fighter is still the better movie overall. Now before the flame wars start, here is my explanation.

    In terms of being a sports drama, Warrior is definitely the superior movie. But in terms of a drama in general, The Fighter was better overall. The fights in Warrior were excellent and had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. But that was basically only during the fights. The rest of the movie was also good with solid performances from everyone, but in almost every category, those performances are surpassed by those in The Fighter.

    The main characters in Warrior played by Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy, both were excellent. If I were to pick the best actor between those two and Mark Wahlberg I would say Joel Edgerton and Mark Wahlberg are about tied. Most people would consider Tom Hardy the superior main actor between the two but I’ll have to disagree. His role was VERY one-dimensional in my opinion and he basically had one emotion through the entire movie, angry. Sure he did an excellent job at that, but I would have liked to see a bit more depth out of him.

    For best supporting actor, in my opinion, similar to The Fighter, the supporting actor in Warrior (Nick Nolte) was actually the star of the movie like Christian Bale was the star of The Fighter. And between them, Nick Nolte surprised me a great deal and did an excellent job, but sorry to say, Christian Bale’s performance just about blows everything out of the water. And no, I’m not a Christian Bale fanboy because of Batman, I actually think he did a very mediocre job in The Dark Knight and think he generally does an “adequate” job in most of his recent films and not much more than that… But for The Fighter, he really surprised me and I think I’ve seen one of the best performances from anyone in a very long time…

    Then for the supporting actress category, Jennifer Morrison in Warrior also really surprised me considering I mainly know her from the tv show House. She did an excellent job in Warrior, but again, Melissa Leo who played the mother in The Fighter really took it to another level. Even Amy Adams I think did a slightly better job than Jennifer Morrison. Again, not saying Ms. Morrison did a poor job, she was excellent, it’s just that Amy Adams and Melissa Leo was just somehow even more excellent…

    So in my humble opinion, The Fighter is still a better movie, but only by a very small margin thanks to the intense fight scenes in Warrior.

    • Ken J I agree with everything you said except what you said about Tom Hardy. I agree with your assessment of the character, but I say Hardy is far superior an actor to Mark Whalberg and better than Edgerton though I think Edgerton is better than Markky Mark I have no respect for Marky Mark as an actor he’s very hit and miss. Yes his character was one dimensional, but that was hardly his fault it was written one dimensional and his acting ability simply made it believable and interesting despite how vanilla it was written. As far as actors go IMO Tom Hardy was by far the second best actor in both films right behind Bale.

      I also don’t agree with you assessment of Bale as Batman, but that has nothing to do with The Warrior. I think Bale was fantastic as both Bruce and batman. I am not however a fan of his because of Batman I liked him before he ever put on the cape. I was a fan from The Machinist, Equalibrium and American Psycho and while Reign of Fire wasn’t exactly a masterpiece it was almost watchable and his acting was by far the strongest part of the film.

      However, as far as your opinion of The Fighter and Warrior go I agree with everything else other than your opinion of Tom Hardys acting.

      Both movies were absolutely fantastic , but The Fighter was better. It had more interesting characters and as you said Bales performance was a truly classic performance. The Warrior had a more compelling plot I think, but the characters lacked the same level of (for lack of a better word) interesting-ness. I think excluding Bale The Warrior had better acting because most of The Fighter was mediocre acting with a few exeptions. No one in The Warrior stood out in the same was as bale, but they were all good.

      • @Daniel

        Well, I’m only talking about what I can see from watching that movie. True the lackluster character might not be Hardy’s fault, but I don’t think there was anything that could have made that point obvious to me. What I saw was a very one-dimensional character that was even annoying at times.

        And I disagree with you that The Fighter was full of mediocre acting. Unless you somehow consider Melissa Leo and Amy Adams’ acting as mediocre…Obviously the smaller roles were not excellent, but they were not excellent in Warrior either, it’s the same, only the main characters were excellent. And I also disagree that the plot was better in Warrior. There was actually more of a plot in The Fighter. Almost everything in Warrior was just to set up for the final fight. Someone putting up a $5 million pot with fighters who are not in the official UFC league? I’m sure that happens all of the time. How Brendan just happened to know some big time trainer. Yes I know he used to be in the UFC, but still, didn’t it strike you as weird how only 16 fighters were accepted yet THREE of them were all from the same city?? Just a TAD contrived if you ask me, but I forgive that slight flaw because of how compelling the story was told and how good the acting was. For me, the plot of The Fighter was solid and didn’t really have any plot holes or anything like that, but yah, the obvious point is that it was a true story so they had something to base it on, while Warrior had to be invented. I give them credit for that. And in terms of acting for their movies, again, my placement of Tom Hardy is not a statement of his acting ability, but his acting in his role in Warrior, and yes, how it was written could definitely affect this, but here is how I would rate them:

        1. Christian Bale (The Fighter)
        2. Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
        3. Nick Nolte (Warrior)
        4. Amy Adams (The Fighter)
        5. Joel Edgerton – Mark Wahlberg – Tom Hardy
        6. Jennifer Morrison (Warrior)

        • I hate this text box… Didn’t mean to post then, but anyway, only had one more thing to say, even between Amy Adams and Nick Nolte, I’m kind of torn between which is better. Again, Nick Nolte’s character in Warrior was somewhat one-dimensional also, while Amy Adams seemed to have a harder role to pull off, so I might consider them a close tie and in some scenes I feel Amy Adams really shined and was better than Nolte’s overall performance… Basically, I was pretty blown away by the performances by all of the main actors in The Fighter and was very impressed by the same from Warrior, but just a bit more from The Fighter.

          Either way, both movies are excellent and worth watching at least once. Unfortunately it seems Warrior might be a box office failure. I just hope word of mouth will improve its take. But there are actually a few other good movies out right now too that might hurt those chances…

  23. Wow, just saw this movie last night. 7:20 showing on a friday night in a busy mall. No one in there with me. Fantastic movie, great and moving story, great fight scenes, all the acting was great….the only bad part is this movie may not even make its budget back. That is terrible.

  24. Amazing movie. Amazing. Makes The Fighter look like a pile of feces. Hardy’s a badass actor.

  25. Just saw it, finally, Friday. It was fantastic. The final fight scene had me in tears and Nolte’s performance was amazing; especially after he falls off the wagon while listening to Moby Dick.

  26. This movie was amazing. Best movie in a REALLY long time – completely engaged me emotionally, which is rare.

  27. Watched today and it had me gripped all the way through. My only problems were the camera during the fights not getting in close enough at times and Nick Nolte just plain disappeared for a fair chunk, a shame because his performance was a real surprise and I found myself empathising a lot more with his character than I expected especially in his scenes with Hardy whose resentment to his family had me wincing and just left me uncomfortable such was the power of Hardy’s performance. Edgerton made more of his role than I thought, his character could easily have been the goodygood guy but was relieved to see a lot of depth too him. Jennifer Morrison had a lot more screentime than her character wouldve afforded in similiar films and was grateful to see her put as great a performance as she did. As to how it rates next to The Fighter I couldn’t say in great depth but I did feel there was a sense of urgency to Warrior that The Fighter may have lacked and that was due to the heat between Hardy and Edgerton.

  28. This is real! welcome to our world!! Never give up. Family, love and always Jesus!
    Believe:|

  29. Loved this movie, especially Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte’s performances – both of those guys were so spot on, it was chilling. One of my favorite parts was when they all get to the Red Carpet event and the media blitz is on and Brendan spots Tommy – the intense stare that Tommy gives back is insane! Also that scene was bolstered by the music, I really love Middle Distance Runner and that song “Sun and the Earth” was perfect.

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