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Warrior movie poster

Warrior Movie Review

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A further sign that boxing's heydey is over, Warrior is a surprisingly captivating sports drama about MMA fighting, featuring an intriguing story and inspired performances from its two leads. Many critics have compared it to Rocky and other boxing classics. While it isn't nearly as good as Rocky, to even be considered in the same discussion is noteworthy.

Warrior follows the unlikely rise of two estranged brothers through the mixed-martial arts ranks. Brendan (Joel Edgerton, The Thing) is family man and teacher facingĀ  foreclosure, who has dabbled in MMA in the past but has has never achieved much success. Tommy (Tom Hardy, Bronson, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises), a war veteran troubled by his past, is merely a brute force, a fighter who knocks out his opponents within seconds. Despite their common abilities, the two brothers barely talk, their only connection their drunk of a father (Nick Nolte).

The very thought of an MMA-inspired drama seemed cheesy, a step-up from WWF-produced action films but not by much. Audiences agreed and Warrior bombed in theaters, earning only $13 million domestically.

I, and the rest of America, was wrong. I'm not a big MMA fan. I've only seen one fight. Ever. I appreciate the physicality of the sport, but have never been into fights, boxing or otherwise. Ironically, I'm a big fan of boxing movies, and Warrior is a legitimate contender in the ring.

Directed and co-written by Gavin O'Connor (Miracle), Warrior is a good-looking film that treats its story and characters seriously. The characters are well developed and at least semi-interesting, their arcs compelling. The fighting sequences are also stellar and rival any good boxing movie.

Both Edgerton and Hardy deliver solid performances. Hardy is especially good, his angry, emotionally cold character equally frustrating and intriguing. But the real show-stealer is Nolte, who turns in his best performance in years as a father looking to reconcile with his two sons, neither of whom are very interested in returning the favor. Nolte deserves more recognition than he'll ever receive for the role.

As good as the movie is, Warrior is limited by its own premise. The plot works, and yet it stretches the realm of believability, that two brothers could simultaneously become championship-level fighters. The story is dramatic, but it's also a bit forced, requiring some suspension of disbelief. The dueling character arcs also take away from one another; neither character is fully realized, their arcs nearly interchangeable even though they themselves are quite different. Had O'Connor not split his time between two leads that are both dealing with the same daddy issues, he really could have had a juggernaut on his hands.

Warrior, which is now on DVD and Blu-ray, is a well-made movie that will appeal to any fan of Rocky, Raging Bull, Cinderella Man and other boxing greats. It features great performances and engaging fight sequences. It never quite reaches the level of those aformentioned movies, primarily because it's story is a little more contrived, but it's a worthy sports drama nonetheless.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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