A Brit and an Aussie playing a couple of toughs from Pennsylvania. Who knew there was a shortage of American White Guys trying to be actors in Hollywood? I guess I shouldn’t just single out White Guys since Idris Elba and Chiwetal Ojeofor are being subbed in for a good number of American Black Dudes in movies. Oh the ignominy of it all. Good thing I just watch movies and am not trying to be in movies because I’d be grossly under employed. Today’s movie in which foreigners play Americans is ‘Warrior’, which is about as crowd pleasing a sports movie as you are going to run across, and those foreigners did a darn good job. Not that we’re xenophobic over here or anything like that.
Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy – the Brit) is an angry young man. You would be hard pressed to find a person in a movie angrier than Tommy Conlon. Fresh out of the Marines, Tommy is back in town, whatever this working class town in Pennsylvania this is supposed to be, to berate his father Paddy (Nick Nolte) for being the world’s worst dad. I mean he really hates this guy. But Paddy claims he’s changed. He’s not the drunken abusive Irish bastard he used to be that forced Tommy and his mom to leave town in the dead of night to save their own lives. Now he’s sober, reads the bible and all kinds of good stuff. Just so you know, Tommy didn’t hear any of that.
Across town is Tommy’s older brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton – the Aussie). Brendan is a hard working school teacher with a lovely wife (Jennifer Morrison), two adorable daughters… one of them sickly… and a house about to go into foreclosure. To make ends meet Brendan has a little side job where he fights in amateur ultimate fighting events, though he tells his wife he’s a bouncer. Still, he doesn’t make enough to stop the bank from taking his crib. Oh, and he really hates his dad too.
One fateful day while working out at the local gym, Tommy spars with a top ranked fighter and beats this loser near to death in no time flat. Somebody caught that on video and now Tommy is a YouTube sensation. The upside to this is that Tommy’s sudden fame has gained him entry into this Ultimate Fighting round robin winner take all event
where the victor walks off with a cool five mil. The downside to this is that Tommy’s fame will bring some unwanted attention that will eventually reveal the real reason he’s back home. And he’s also slated his dad, who he absolutely despises, to train him.
Independent of Tommy, Brendan also wants to enter this fight and he gets his chance when his trainer (Frank Grillo) loses his fighter that was going into the tournament via injury. How fortuitous. Against his better judgment, he puts Brendan in, even though Brendan was never much of a fighter. This is his trainer talking.
So these two brothers are entered in this fight, but they haven’t met up yet. That’s what we want to see. Brendan sure is happy to see his baby brother, but guess what? Tommy hates him too. Shocker. Tommy hates Brendan because Brendan fell in love with a girl and wouldn’t leave with him and his mother, a mother who got sick and died in Tommy’s arms. That’s a good excuse and all but after spending some quality time with Tommy, he really doesn’t need much of a reason to hate on anybody as it seems to be his nature.
The tournament has sixteen entries, Tommy and Brendan are in opposite brackets, Tommy lays waste to whoever is foolish enough to get in the ring with him, where Brendan scrapes by only on guts and will. Regardless of how they get there, we know the good man and the angry dude have to get there and meet in the octagon for all the marbles.
Gavin O’Connor’s ‘Warrior’ is a sports movie through and through, and it’s a good sports movie. I’ve even heard where this sports movie has brought grown men to tears. Now I’m not immune to shedding a tear or two at the end of a sports movie, in fact Dwayne Johnson’s ‘The Gridiron Gang’ broke me down so completely that I was randomly beating up people after I left the theater in an attempt to regain my manhood. I didn’t feel that kind of emotion at the end of ‘Warrior’, as effective a sports movie as it was, if only because O’Connor’s emotional cues were so blatantly manipulative that I could literally feel the man reaching into my eyeball and yanking on my tear ducts. I’m not that easy.
Even though the cute sickly kids, cheering students, foreclosing homes, war vet widows, dying mom tales, and drunken fathers listening to Moby Dick didn’t do enough to make me cry, ‘Warrior’ was still a darned good movie. Like any good movie, sports or otherwise, the characters are the thing and Edgerton, Hardy, and Nolte have done fine jobs in clearly defining and developing the characters that they were playing, which made it mighty easy to get caught up in their respective madness. The fight scenes were well choreographed, though both of the brothers and their paths to the pinnacle of the sport might be a tad bit of a stretch, but not as much of a stretch as Tommy skating detection for so long, on a national stage, from those he was desperately avoiding. Another positive was that the movie was setup as such so that the winner of our battle between the brothers wasn’t painfully obvious, leaving at least a little doubt as to the outcome.
But this is an underdog sports movie so certain liberties had to be executed and were expected, and also were for the greater good. ‘Warrior’ is a crowd-pleasing winner on just about every level.