Almost everything about “Warrior” makes me want to hate it. First of all, seeing a film about two brothers who fight UFC, have an extremely troubled childhood separately, and finally become matched up against each other in the biggest MMA fight of all time didn’t excite me at all. However, despite innumerable recycled fight-movie cliches, “Warrior” tells a real story constructed with timeless and believable characters. It comes so scarily close to a self-parody that you can’t fathom why each predictable component is so compelling. I guess it’s the same reason the Super Bowl is watched every year. It’s simply made anew.
Nick Nolte delivers a scathing performance as the disowned alcoholic father and ex-trainer who’s making his way through the 12 steps with his estranged sons. Tom Hardy is continuing to make his presence known, fitting the profile of one of his most highly anticipated characters to come, playing Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises.” Australian TV star Joel Edgerton pleasantly surprises as the underdog brother and father/physics teacher who’s just trying to pay the mortgage after struggling to finance his daughter’s heart surgery.
It’s all set up in such an obvious and heartbreaking way, but somehow “Warrior” grows into an emotional juggernaut, holding the audience’s breath hostage during every last bout in the cage. This film forces you to respect the real dangers of MMA, and offers a front row seat to the pain.
Beneath all these layered characters, it never becomes extremely clear whose side we should find ourselves on; each player carries a tragic burden that only seems manageable with that five million-dollar championship purse. Then suddenly, as if by some cliche-busting miracle, the audience shifts focus from a climax fueled by victory to one founded on compassion and true forgiveness. This gut-wrenching spectacle comes to a close leaving everyone involved visibly exhausted, albeit palpably exhilarated.
Review by Dylan Bliss