directed by Gavin O'Connor
I seem to be writing a lot about films that show much promise when they aren’t bogged down or hindered by subplot through lines that detract from their excellent core. Gavin O’Connor’s Warrior is another such film that would have been fantastic if the writers weren’t so busy trying to jerk tears out of us. Two brothers, both struggling, find themselves on a collision course in an open entry MMA tournament called Sparta. One, a family man struggling to pay the bills (Joel Edgerton is solidly great). The other, a war hero fuckup haunted by the rage of his youth (a superb Tom Hardy) who allows his ex-drunk father to train him (Nick Nolte is as good it gets). This premise is plenty, but instead of just struggling, Edgerton has to have a daughter with an expensive heart defect to boot (which never amounts to anything in the film, thus rendering it a useless piece of sentimental storytelling). Instead of just being a pissed off, washed out fuck up, Tom Hardy has to be a war hero who saved some lives even as (brace yourself for another twist) he was also deserting his fellows soldier. Too much, too much, sirs. This is a common malady of films like this, to heap heart ache on top of heart break to make a film about a sport something more, but what the writers fail to realize is that you don’t always need all of that. Rocky didn’t have to battle cancer in addition to proving he could go the distance. That being said, much of The Warrior is fantastic, and any film that gets me to respect MMA (which I consider to be nothing more than the barroom brawl version of the fine sport of boxing) even slightly deserves much credit. Hardy, Nolte and Edgerton triumph despite the shackles of sappy narrative, creating whole characters that feel and get you to feel as well.
P effing S: Do you hunt when you're not acting, Mr Hardy? 'Cause you have traps big enough to catch bears! (argh, BC! That joke is terrible!)