While Warrior doesn’t land any knockout blows in terms of its flawed narrative, certain facets of it will please its target audience.
The picture opens with Tommy (Tom Hardy), a troubled ex-soldier, returning to see his father (Nick Nolte) for the first time in over a decade. Meanwhile, Tommy’s brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton) lives a seemingly idyllic family existence, however, proverbial storm clouds of financial trouble are gathering quickly on his horizons. Both Tommy and Brendan are ex-professional ‘fighters’ – trained by their father in very different forms of martial arts. With their individual financial struggles (Tommy’s becomes apparent halfway through the film, I’ll leave some spoiler space), the two siblings have hit their respective walls – fortuitously a once-in-a-life-time opportunity appears: an Ultimate Fighting Championship-style tournament, where the winner scopes a cool $5 million.
The aforementioned flaw is its relentless predictability. You really should be able to guess the film’s conclusion from its trailer – two troubled brothers, both fighting in the same tournament…I wonder if they’ll end up facing each other in the final? The dialogue also follows a similar pattern, virtually every line is telegraphed to you before it escapes the actor’s lips.
Before we reach the end, the preceding journey is frustratingly lacking in plot twists. I attempted to turn my brain off about half an hour in, but still found myself mapping out each scene before it had taken place
Thankfully, to avoid gigantic disappointment, when the film eventually climaxes it does so proficiently and with heart. The emotion may be scripted and generic, but it is still there – a tear may well appear in the corner of your eye.
Nolte is uncomfortable in the confusing father role (do we empathise with the wife-beater?), but Hardy shines and Edgerton holds his own. Overall, It’s not a film made up of great characters, acting or direction. This is very much a case of throwing loads of money (reportedly $30 million) at an average, but probably bankable, screenplay. The only potential hitch to its profitability might be that UFC is a relatively niche sporting interest – rest assured however, boxing fans will probably enjoy it too, though it should be apparent that this is no Rocky or The Fighter. In fact, when an undefeated Russian challenger appears, the film momentarily descends into Rocky IV. He’s not nearly Ivan Drago though – after emerging from the Iron Curtain he swiftly gets thrown back under it. This is the case with the majority of the film’s peripheral characters; they appear under an individual guise (i.e. the embarrassed fighter seeking revenge), then they are dispatched with such ease and quickness that it makes you wonder whether they needed building-up at all.
By the time the credits rolled, I couldn’t help but think that Warrior had failed to justify its 2hr20min run time. That’s not to say it ever cusped on boredom, which it didn’t, but when a film goes on for such a long period it’s natural to hope for it to have some kind of impact on you. Warrior doesn’t do this. It certainly entertains, with the bloody fistfights and crunching takedowns likely to thrill an audience susceptible to fun on a purely primal level (myself included), but within an hour of leaving the cinema – once the excitement of the violence has warn off – you’ll find that the film’s nuisances and emotional weight have faded into the mist.
Warrior may be held up by a strong final third, but the rest of the film is distinctly lacking in anything remotely original or laudable. When events eventually culminate it is a satisfying and watchable conclusion, however it never shakes off strong feelings of cliché and predictability. There’s no real need to see Warrior in cinemas so waiting for the DVD could be your best bet – if I ever find myself in that scenario I’ll probably fast-forward to the final 30 minutes.