This may be a mixed martial arts (MMA) movie in appearance, but really Warrior is put together like a traditional boxing movie. Director/co-writer Gavin O’Connor (Miracle) takes a kitchen-sink approach to storytelling; just about every damn dramatic thing you can think of, short of emergency baby deliveries, is stuffed into this movie. You’ve got two brothers, one a hard luck school teacher (Joel Edgerton) trying to save the bank from taking his home (his family is broke due to his sick daughter’s medical condition), and the other (Tom Hardy) an Iraq War vet who saved lives and wants no glory, for he’s haunted by the men in his platoon who did not survive. Add a drunken father (Nick Nolte) trying to live life on the straight-and-narrow who wants to get back in his sons’ good graces, the teacher’s community rallying around him, the Marine’s comrades in service rallying around him, and some major personal issues between brothers (Hardy feels that his bro abandoned him and their sick mother), and two competing underdog tales, and my God, it’s hard not to feel beaten into submission. But damn if it isn’t effective stuff. I was tearing up at multiple points, completely sucked into the drama, riveted by the brutal, adrenaline-pumping MMA fight scenes, and pining for family reconciliation. Hardy and Edgerton flex more than their muscles on screen; each gives terse, heartbreaking, completely convincing performances as broken-down men struggling for redemption. You don’t have to no a lick about MMA to get hooked by the heavy emotional beats of the movie. Warrior is by no means a subtle movie, but it pushes all the sports genre buttons expertly, presenting a gratifying, affecting meat-and-potatoes drama that grown men are given permission to get weepy over.
Nate’s Grade: A-