If there was one movie that is sure to get mostly skipped over at the Academy Awards this year it will be Warrior. Gavin O’Connor directs a film that looks similar to last years The Fighter, but is instead much different. Warrior is a mix of sports dramas before it like The Fighter and Rocky, but where it differs is its two-tale approach that slowly merges two stories together without sacrificing impact or emotions. Warrior is without a doubt one of the most powerful films of 2011 thanks to its three top billed stars that provide career best performances. The story may sound familiar, but it’s very much its own thing.
Warrior starts with Tommy (Tom Hardy) sitting on the front porch of his dad Paddy’s (Nick Nolte) house. Tommy is revealed to be a former Marine. His relationship with his brother and his father fell out when he was young. He took his mother and left his abusive, drunk father for a better life. Shortly after his mom passed away Tommy enlisted and was never heard of again until now. He’s a soft spoken individual, but his actions speak much louder than his words. There’s a painful past hidden beneath Tommy and he’d rather just let out his anger on a punching bag then speak with his own family.
His brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton) lives a very different lifestyle. He’s a father and a school teacher, who does a little fighting on the side to stay afloat. His wife thinks he’s a bouncer at a local club, but the truth is fighting pays more. His little stint in the parking lot of a strip club causes his teaching license to get suspended, leaving him no choice but to continue to fight to keep a roof over his family.
The two brothers enter the tournament from opposite sides of the spectrum and as the story progresses they inch closer and closer to each other. There brief encounters out of the octagon are full of unapologetic anger. Warrior is just as much a family drama as it is a sports drama. It’s not just a basic underdog story. It’s partially one, but it’s also about family and forgiveness. People aren’t perfect and sometimes that’s the hardest thing to accept.
Warrior is an exceptional film because of the three leading men. Nick Nolte plays Paddy; the dad with a drunk and abusive past. He’s got his fair share of demons, but that’s all behind him now. He’s a sober church going man that just wants to reconnect with his sons and be in there life. Nolte gives a career best here. There’s a lot of talk about him getting a supporting actor nod and I honestly believe he deserves it. He pours his heart and soul into this role.
Tom Hardy plays Tommy; the war vet with even more demons. Hardy bottles Tommy’s rage until it can’t be bottled anymore. He really lets himself get lost in the role at the beginning of the film and once the fights get rolling he completely busts out of the cage. He’s a physical monster with a soft side that’s hard to get at. He comes full circle at the end of the film and it shows just how strong Hardy is as an actor, both physically and emotionally.
Playing the more composed brother is Joel Edgerton. Brendan isn’t as damaged or bruised as Tommy and Paddy, but he too has problems. He’s more of the everyday man and it’s just as easy connecting with his character. Edgerton does a great job, but it’s hard competing with heavyweights like Hardy and Nolte. He doesn’t steal the show, but he holds his own well enough.
Hats off to director Gavin O’Connor for piecing the whole thing together. He’s no amateur of the genre having done Miracle (another sports film). Warrior is easily his best film because of how completely balanced he keeps it. The film could have easily been a rip-off of The Fighter or any other fighting drama, but it skillfully takes traits from them while adding its own. If you split Warrior in half you would still have two whole films that could have been told. Each side is stretched out and given the proper amount of detail to allow some emotional investment.
He also manages to keep you guessing until the end despite the spoiler heavy trailers. They reveal that the two men are brothers and that they fight in the final match against each other, but you’re still interested in seeing how they get there and who’s going to win. It could easily go either way with enough support in both of their corners, yet the ending plays out just right. I don’t see how else it could have gone down without losing some of those final important moments.
Warrior is one of the year’s best films that got passed on by during its theatrical run due to its lack of marketing and poorly cut trailers. Don’t let them fool you; the movie is an intense drama with two of the best performances of the year and one of the more focused directions given the complexity of the two merging stories.
Warrior comes to Blu-Ray with a 1080p transfer that might not be the sharpest and smoothest on the block, but it’s a good representation of what Gavin O’Connor was going for. The transfer has a heavy filter on it that causes lots of grain during nighttime shots and several inside shots, but that’s completely intentional. When the film does have a chance to show off some of its clarity it doesn’t disappoint. Skin tones are properly colored and clear.
Lionsgate goes all out in the audio department for Warrior. They provide you with three audio tracks on the disc. The first is a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that is meant for systems with a proper 7.1 setup. The second is a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that is meant for those with an HD 5.1 setup and finally a 2.0 Dolby Digital track for those with a smaller setup. Each track is noticeably different from the others. I really appreciate the detail and time that went into encoding each track for the proper setup. Dialogue is focused on the front channels while the fights break out on the back channels. If you have a proper 7.1 track then I’d suggest playing that track otherwise the other two work great.
The disc is topped off with a good selection of extras that are mostly filler. They’re mostly all featurettes that offer an extensive look inside the MMA world, but if you’re not into that sort of thing then I doubt the one deleted scene and gag reel will do much for you. Here’s a full list of the special features below.
- Full Contact: Feature Length Enhanced Viewing Mode
- Feature Audio Commentary with Filmmakers and Actor Joel Edgerton
- Redemption: Bringing Warrior To Life (HD)
- The Diner: Deleted Scene (HD)
- Cheap Shots: Gag Reel (HD)
- Brother vs. Brother: Anatomy of the Fight (HD)
- Philosophy in Combat: Mixed Martial Arts Strategy (HD)
- Simply Believe: A Tribute to Charles “Mask” Lewis, Jr.
- DVD Copy
- Digital Copy
I’ve seen Warrior three times in theaters and two times on Blu-Ray and I still say it’s one of the best films of 2011. It’s a powerhouse film thanks to its three strong leads, especially Nolte and Hardy. I hope Nolte gets his recognition at the Oscars and I sure hope he wins because he deserves it. Hardy and Edgerton are great, but Nolte is phenomenal. Warrior holds its own very well when compared to other sports dramas and dramas in general. Fans of mixed martial arts and fans of great dramatic filmmaking will want to purchase this one as soon as possible.
Warrior is one of the most overlooked films of 2011 and it’s a shame because the film provides a hefty amount of heart and soul. The Blu-Ray disc comes with a true to source video transfer that might scare away fans of the crystal clear quality in the Transformers films, but its intentionally presented this way and it only helps get the look and feel of the movie across. The audio department comes with three tracks that fit just about any sort of surround sound setup there is. The disc has 7.1, 5.1 and 2.0 tracks that all shine on their respective players. The package is completed with a few featurettes, a deleted scene and some other material that’s worth taking a look at. A DVD and digital copy can be found on disc two for those looking to cover all the bases when buying the combo pack.