Warrior (Lionsgate, PG-13)

The fights look real. But more than that, they feel real. As you watch, you get the sensation of being in the first row by the cage, having it all happen right in front of you.

 

 

Anyone with a brother or sister can tell you that animosities between siblings can run pretty deep. For every “Dad liked you best,” there’s usually a “Mom spent more time with you” that can match it. And, there is nothing quite like it when the rivalry burns bright enough to lead to a true sibling smack-down. Of course, most siblings aren’t mixed martial arts fighters, are they?

Warrior focuses on the story of two brothers, Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton), who’ve been estranged for years and only come back into contact during an intense MMA championship both are competing in. Brendan and Tommy are now headed for the mother of all family reunions.

After their parents split up, the brothers went on to very different lives. Tommy moved away with their mother and eventually joined the Marines, while Brendan stayed in Pittsburgh with their alcoholic father Paddy (Nick Nolte), married his high school sweetheart, and became a science teacher. Both brothers have long-held resentments about their childhoods, but the stronger grudge belongs to Tommy, who felt abandoned when older brother Brendan decided to stay behind.

Warrior does a good job of making each grievance plausible and keeps either sibling from playing the villain. As soon as Brendan seems more deserving of the championship, Tommy is shown to have a completely different side to him that makes you want him to win it all just as much.

You can’t really discuss a film like Warrior without talking about the action. I’d be terrifically surprised if the actors didn’t get the goodness knocked out of them a few times while shooting. The fights look real. But more than that, they feel real. As you watch, you get the sensation of being in the first row by the cage, having it all happen right in front of you. Each bout gives you a pit-of-the-stomach tension that screams, “Oh my God! He’s gonna kill that guy!”

Hardy’s role as Tommy is essentially the angry, bitter, sort of messed up brother and it’s obvious once again why he’s becoming one of filmdom’s go-to tough guys. Outside the ring Tommy is a slow-simmering loner, but inside that cage he’s all hunched swagger, hard hits, and crazy eyes. You get the sense that he fights because he needs to, not because he wants to. Someone has to pay for his crappy childhood, and it might as well be the punk across the cage from him.

Brendan may be the calm, forward thinking, responsible brother, but Edgerton gives us more than that. Brendan is a bruiser at heart, but he clearly made a decision to be better than his upbringing could ever suggest he should be. He fights because he has to, but you can see he also enjoys it just a bit. It’s a genuine performance that should easily net Edgerton his choice of roles for years to come.│Adrienne Jones

 

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