Warrior (2011)

Posted in Reviews by - July 15, 2013
Warrior (2011)

Supercharged, highly emotive sports movie which makes the logical transition from Darren Aronofsky’s reflective downbeat sucker-punch portrayal of wrestling in The Wrestler (2008), via David O. Russell’s boxing drama The Fighter (2010) to the brutal ground and pound of mixed martial arts. But to cast Warrior as merely following a trend does the film an immeasurable disservice. Sure, every sporting cliche is here, from Rocky‘s small town ambition to Raging Bull‘s complicated family ties, before the film reaches a contrived and predictable conclusion. But the film rests on superb performances and a core of convincing characters each battling with a divisive balance of loyalty, pride and responsibility. The MMA tournament which takes up the majority of the final act is utterly compelling, offering both an insight into what motivates the men choosing to engage in extreme full contact cage fighting and the impact their decisions have on those closest to them.

The central drama revolves around a former alcoholic and abusive father, played by Nick Nolte, who cleans up too late to build bridges with his two estranged combative sons. One, played by Joel Edgerton, is a physics teacher and family man who is forced back into the ring due to spiraling debts. The other son is more complex. Played brilliantly by Tom Hardy, he returns to his home town of Pittsburgh after running out on the US Marines, choosing his father to coach him for the upcoming SPARTA tournament – billed as the Superbowl of MMA – but stubbornly refusing to accept his fathers apologies. The two brothers end up in the same competition, so it’s pretty obvious where the film is heading. But it is manipulative enough to get caught up in the emotion, and as an exercise in humanising the brutal sport of mixed martial arts it works very well.

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