Warrior (12A)

The ViewBristol Review

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Review byMatthew Turner23/09/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 140 mins

Emotionally engaging drama that transcends its ridiculously clichéd script thanks to strong direction, impressive fight sequences and a trio of terrific performances from Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte.

What's it all about?
Directed by Gavin O'Connor, Warrior stars Tom Hardy as Tommy, an ex-soldier who returns to his home town after a 15 year absence and asks his recovering alcoholic father Paddy (Nick Nolte) to help train him for an upcoming mixed martial arts contest with a $5 million prize. At the same time, Tommy's ex-fighter brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton), a high school physics teacher and family man who's estranged from both his brother and his father, also decides to enter the contest when he gets into trouble with his mortgage.

The Good
The script is ridiculously clichéd from start to finish, chucking every possible boxing movie convention at the screen and hoping some of them will stick; it is fair to say, for example, that it relies quite heavily on its potential audience's love of Rocky movies. It also asks us to swallow some outrageous contrivances and lapses in logic, such as the circumstances of a late reveal about Tommy's past.

There's plenty of evidence, then, to suggest that Warrior shouldn't work but, incredibly, it does, thanks to O'Connor's assured direction, some impressively physical fight sequences (both actors trained hard to make it look convincing and it shows) and terrific performances from the cast. Hardy is superb as the enigmatic, doggedly determined ex-soldier, while Nolte delivers his best performance since Affliction and could possibly end up with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination as a result.

The Great
Edgerton is equally good and more than holds his own against Hardy; in fact, what's interesting is just how far both their characters' personalities and their own acting styles are mirrored in their fighting styles – Tommy goes for jaw-droppingly impressive one-punch knock outs (an early take-down is a particular highlight), while Brendan plays the longer game, using persistence and professional skill to obtain equally impressive results.

On a similar note, the script is careful to make its stereotypes count, while not cheapening the dialogue in the process – for example, Nolte has an extraordinary scene where he falls off the wagon, but it's beautifully written and performed, so it's actually genuinely moving, rather than feeling tired and familiar (kudos is also due here to the casting director, since Nolte's own much-publicised problems bring an extra level of emotion to the scene).

Worth seeing?
Warrior may be clichéd and manipulative but it's also thoroughly entertaining and powerfully emotional, thanks to strong direction and terrific performances. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 01/10/2011 22:52

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