'Warrior' Review: A Potential Classic

Warrior seems a likely candidate for induction into the pantheon of great boxing movies. It’s even more ferocious than many such pictures in that it focuses not on standard sluggery, but on the bloody caged combat of mixed martial arts, with leg swipes, head kicks, and resounding body slams packed in among the savage pinned-down beatings. The story–although you can see its resolution coming from a few miles away–has some unique twists. And the three lead performances–by Nick Nolte, Tom Hardy, and Joel Edgerton–are, in an unavoidable word, terrific.

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Nolte plays Paddy Conlon, a veteran MMA trainer who taught everything he knows to his two sons, Tommy (Hardy) and Brendan (Edgerton). But Paddy was a brutal drunkard back in the day, and he drove away his wife, who took Tommy with her, leaving Brendan–Paddy’s favorite–to be raised, unhappily, by his father. Years later, we find that Paddy has put booze behind him, but is now estranged from Brendan, who refuses to let him see the two children his son has with his wife, Tess (Jennifer Morrison). As for Tommy, he disappeared long ago.

Brendan is a popular high school science teacher. But financial reverses have put him in danger of losing his family’s home. Desperate for income, he decides to return to fighting in shabby local matches around the Pittsburgh area. Then he contacts a longtime friend, a gym owner and trainer named Frank (Frank Grillo). Frank feels that Brendan is too old and soft for the fight game, but agrees to start training him for a big MMA tournament soon to be staged in Atlantic City, where the top attraction will be the current world champ, a formidable Russian called Koba (Kurt Angle), who resembles a very tall, heavily muscled refrigerator.

Then Tommy reappears, from who knows where. Dark and angry, he’s now a completely mysterious figure. Tommy, too, has returned to fighting, and is also determined to take part in the Atlantic City tournament. Although he despises his father, he nevertheless recruits him to be his trainer–as long as they speak of nothing but the sport, and never socialize. Paddy sorrowfully consents.

Full review is here.

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