Sunday, 18 September 2011

Warrior.

Warrior poster.

Written for TheIndustryMole.com. Click here to go there.


Director: Gavin O'Connor.

Certificate: 12A.

Running Time: 140 min.

Starring: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo and Kevin Dunn.

In similar belated fashion, we saw The Fighter come to the UK on the second of February. This is very similar to The Fighter for a few reasons. It's not just a fighting film like Never Back Down and Fighting; it's more of a character driven drama like The Fighter is. They both have brutal fights. They both focus on addiction albeit this is a father's alcohol addiction instead of a brother's drug addiction. They both concentrate on brothers. They're both predictable. Then they have something else that links them too: They're both brilliant.


Before you think this is a carbon copy of The Fighter, it isn't. They both just share similar DNA as they're sport films however The Fighter is based on a true story and this is nothing but fiction from the mind of Gavin O'Connor. The Fighter is also set in the mid '80s while this is based in the now. It's not really fair to compare them as they're both different. Where The Fighter focuses on one fighter's struggle to break free from his family problems, his brother's shadow and being the underdog, Warrior focuses on both brothers with very different stories which makes you pick a favourite. It divides your feelings, your attention. You focus on two brothers, yet, they only actually meet in the film twice and both times are memorable brilliance. Similar to the chemistry between Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro in Michael Mann's Heat.


We first meet Tommy Riordan (Tom Hardy) who is an introvert fighting machine. Tommy hasn't returned to his home of Pittsburgh for 14 years after he left with his mother who was domestically abused by his alcoholic father, Paddy (Nick Nolte). He still reels from the past that his father and brother tarnished and he uses this anger, this rage, to demolish all of his opponents. He returns home to be trained by his father but he makes sure that his father knows that he wants no relationship, no father-son reunion; he just wants to train with someone familiar. Tommy is a pure power fighter who will ground-and-pound you if necessary and it shows in Tom Hardy's massive bulk-up for the role - his shoulders are so packed with muscle that he's slightly hulking over, a good sign as he's playing Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.


Then we have his estranged brother, Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton), who is a sort of paradox to Tommy. He's a calm and disciplined family man who is struggling with medical bills and mortgage payments. It's his last resort to return to fighting. He's the older brother who is now a physics teacher but he was ignored by his father because Tommy was the golden child. As personalities reflect their fighting styles then Brendan's style is the grappler using discipline, willpower and being thoughtful to make his opponents submit and tap out. His family is his motivation and uses them to endure all the pain that he suffers.


What they're both fighting for is money but not for the simple motivation of having it nor the fame but to take care of people. Hence why they join the tournament called Sparta to get the winner-takes-all $5m that is offered to one fighter and one alone - there are no consolation prizes here. It's predictable with how the tournament will turn out. It all leads to the final showdown of family versus family where all of their past will spill over into one final brawl. Yet, it's not just the story that you enjoy but the characters. They're both deserving even though it's hard not to villianise Tommy as he's unforgiving and is heart-wrenchingly horrible to his father who is trying to recover from his alcoholism. Yet, as his mysterious back-story is revealed, you feel more and more sympathy. He may be cold and distant at the beginning, but he has his reasons.


Gavin O'Connor uses great camera work with an interesting montage and some great cinematography in the city of Pittsburgh and Atlantic City (the poorer version of Las Vegas) but mixes it up with great visceral visuals during fights and emotional close-ups of confrontations. Which is an homage to this film really. It's raw with its emotions but beautiful and touching - even if it is about grown men knocking each other out. The fight scenes are brutal and will make you wince from their realism - especially in Tommy's fights - while the performances of all the characters are so real that you feel sympathy for everyone involved in this traumatic experience.

This may be the first nod to the 2012 Oscars with deserving nominations for the main trio. From the steely performance of Tom Hardy, the calm and family orientated Joel Edgerton and the sorry and begging for forgiveness Nick Nolte, there's not a weak link between them and they all give memorable performances as their pivotal characters. The finale is something of the greats. It's a truly emotional climax which gives complex feelings and mixed thoughts on your favourite, it truly boils down to a truly great spectacle which is genuinely unpredictable as the brothers are both main characters. It's heart-wrenching and tugs on feelings you didn't even know you had, it reverts you back to your unsure pubescent stage where everything was an amalgamation. You'll punch the air with one hand and dab the tears with the other.

★★★★★

Ashley Norris.

Follow me on Twitter @ashleyrhys