Bruising, bonecrunching and packing a pretty hefty emotional punch to boot, Warrior makes an impressive bid to gatecrash the 2011 ‘best of’ lists.

Set among the world of mixed martial arts, but so much more than a mere slugfest, the flick treads the road so well worn by the likes of Rocky and The Fighter.

That is, a film that on paper appears a recipe for a smorgasboard of cheese and high camp, that in actuality turns out to be a whole lot better thanks to a well-grounded script and a bevy of quality performances.

Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte play the three leads and in all honesty it would be unfair to single one out, such is the level of talent on display.

Both Edgerton and Hardy play the sons of Nolte, who have gone their separate ways after clashing with their alcoholic father.

Hardy, all brooding menace and physical prowess, has since gone to the Marines, while Edgerton has become a high school teacher.

Nolte battles his addiction, but the bridges have been burned to such an extent that the three have very little, if any, contact.

All three are more than capable with their fists though, with Hardy’s Tommy having been a standout wrestler at school, while Edgerton (Brendan) had a stint in UFC before his schooling days.

This looms back into focus when a variety of ailments, be it personal or financial, forces the two brothers to step into the ring in a winner-takes-all $5 million MMA 16-man tournament in Atlantic City.

There is a predictable air to some of the movie, and the inclusion of former WWE star Kurt Angle as an Ivan Drago-esque Russian MMA monster does stretch things a little.

But there is so much more to this than mere fighting.

With a script that places as much emphasis on the characters themselves and the family ties and predicaments, the top-notch tussles serve as a thrilling backdrop rather than the be all and end all.

Both Hardy and Edgerton clearly prepared well for their physically demanding roles, and the pair certainly look at home in the cage.

Helmer Gavin O’Connor’s direction is assured, gritty and at times thrilling, continuing the pumped-up vibe he displayed in Pride & Glory.

Warrior may not be the best film you will see this year, but it is certainly another to add to the growing list of pleasant surprises.

 

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.