Let me start by saying I love "Rocky." The training scenes, the underdog plot, the great music -- I just love it, plain and simple. Whenever a similar movie opens, chances are I'll see it. So naturally I went to see "Warrior." Director Gavin O'Connor ("Miracle") has made a much better fighting drama.
The plot is basically about Tommy Conlon (played by Tom Hardy), a man at the bottom with an obvious anger problem due to his past. His brother Brendan (played by Joel Edgerton) is a family man trying to stay afloat from bankruptcy due to an endless sea of bills. Their father (played by Nick Nolte) is a recovered alcoholic wrestling coach who wants to do right by his sons but just can't find a way to do it.
Tommy comes back to town after many years fighting in Iraq and asks his father to train him after he effortlessly knocks out a top middleweight contender at the gym. His father agrees, hoping to get back into his son's life. Meanwhile, Brendan has taken up fighting at local bars to get more cash. Both brothers soon get wind of the Super Bowl of mixed martial arts tournaments and the $5 million in prize money, and the training begins.
Coming into this movie I was expecting a half-baked "Fighter" rip-off about two brothers -- one being the generic saint who from an early age has done the right thing and the wrong-side-of-the-tracks brother who just can't catch a break but has a heart of gold, along with the father being the trainer who missed his shot and becomes bitter but has a big heart and screams out encouragement along with ridiculous training strategies. I'm happy to say that is most definitely not the case.
Instead, every character feels real. Everyone has clear motivations and makes this movie seem very fresh in an overly crowded genre. Everyone sells their part so well, it seems like you've known them for years, lost their number, then found it five years later. Hardy makes Tommy seem like a guy who's angry for a good reason. Edgerton is great as the brother who needs to be able to provide for his family, and Nolte is amazing as the father who has changed but no one will give him a chance to prove it.
One scene in particular will probably bring a tear to your eye.
If you like MMA, "Rocky" or "The Fighter," you'll like this since it's a blend of all three.
Max Fisher is a sophomore at Leonardo DaVinci High School.
4 stars (out of 4)