Warrior is not just notable for being one of the best sports movies in a long time, but also because it boasts three excellent lead performances. Nick Nolte is heart-wrenching in his role as the ex-alcoholic who’s crippled by his previous failings as a father, and who is now trying to make amends with his estranged family. Tom Hardy plays one of Nolte’s two sons; the deeply troubled and perhaps slightly self-righteous ex-marine, and here he gives another example of the animalistic rage and anguish which he is so spectacular at. Make no doubt about it; Warrior contains one of Hardy’s best performances, and that’s saying a lot. The third member of this trio is Joel Edgerton, he’s playing Nolte’s other son; the financially struggling father of two girls, and he has enough of an emotional back-story to also really deliver, even if not quite to the same level as his two co-stars.
I’m completely uninformed about MMA fighting and only went into this film the first time because of the two leads. The second time around was different because by then I appreciated just how well the fight scenes are executed; once they arrive they build and build in both intensity and emotional weight, whilst also managing to avoid becoming repetitive. Warrior isn’t exactly free from the odd cliché and expected moments, but the film involves you to a degree where you don’t really notice them occurring, and if you do then the performances are engrossing enough for it to not really matter. The film does so many different things well, it even does a good job at mixing up the inevitable training montage that takes place in these kind of films.
Some reviewers, I’m thinking of Mark Kermode here, portrayed Warrior as succeeding only as a thrilling, blood pumping, fighting film, however as far as I’m concerned that’s a complete misjudgement. Don’t get me wrong, I love the visceral, pain inducing realism of this film. It feels genuine, and I found myself utterly caught up in its tension whilst being made to feel each and every blow – and that’s both the physical and emotional ones. This isn’t simply an MMA fighting film, but is an emotionally loaded family drama that is only made more painful as it is set within an arena of violence. It’s a great film and is definitely worth a watch.