Static Mass Rating: 4/5
WARRIOR (Blu-ray)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Release date: February 20th, 2012
Certificate (UK): 15

Running time: 140 minutes

Director: Gavin O’Connor

Writers: Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis, Cliff Dorfman

Cast: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison

In contemporary America, everything is falling apart. Tommy (Tom Hardy), an ex-Marine haunted by a tragic accident in Iraq, returns home to his estranged father (Nick Nolte). Neither of them have a relationship with Brendan (Joel Edgerton), a high school physics teacher who is financially struggling to keep his family afloat, and has had his house threatened with repossession.

If anything can provide the unlikely salvation for these three men, it would be an MMA tournament with a huge cash jackpot, winner takes all to the tune of $5 million.

As overcooked as that sounds, bear with it. Warrior packs an almighty punch as Tommy batters his way through the competition, being coached by his father, and Brendan rises as the underdog favourite. It’s no surprise, and perhaps a little trite, that the two brothers are pitted against each other in the final round of the tournament. Don’t snort derisively just yet though, the Williams sisters have met in Grand Slam tennis finals eight times.


But is this a fight that can yield any winners, and if so, at what actual cost? At its heart, Warrior is a family drama. The fragmented family unit is the emotional core that the action revolves around. The bond between father and son, and brother to brother is the engine that propels the film forwards. Brendan puts himself in the way of physical harm to provide for his wife and daughters as a way to show how much he cares for them, to reassert his masculinity.

The MMA fighting is a literal manifestation of the characters’ internal struggles; the fighting of demons, of insecurities, the battling through emotions. It’s gritty and primal, and shot in a way that we’re given access to the bruises and the bleeding and the broken bones. It’s exciting too, on a big screen with the lights and the music. I was totally suckered in, torn as I didn’t want either brother to lose.

The final fight scene is emotional and cathartic for both Brendan and Tommy. They are both so desperate and jaded, and they both really need to win. But without defeat, there can’t be rebirth, both emotionally and spiritually. They’re not just fighting each other; they’re fighting their demons and themselves. And as cliché as that sounds, Warrior manages to pull that off.

It’s rare that in a fight movie you’re rooting for both of the characters to win. Neither of the brothers are entirely good or bad, simply a mix of both, and with equally sympathetic motives. Brendan is relatable and accessible. He’s a good guy, a teacher, just trying to help his family. But underneath his maturity and thoughtfulness, he’s got a dark streak; he’s ambitious and fierce, ready to get dirty to get what he wants, what he needs.


Tommy is the opposite, being bad on the outside but good on the inside. He is almost constantly consumed by rage and shame, and is often unlikeable. However, Hardy gives Tommy a vulnerable core which the audience can sympathise with, hugely necessary to balance out his animalistic thuggishness. His motive for entering the competition is kept concealed for part of the film, but I will say that they’re honourable and when it’s revealed it shows a new dimension to Tommy that the audience needs to offset how cruel he can be to his brother and father.

The character of Paddy is complex and sad. Here is a father who, as a former alcoholic, lost his wife and both of his sons. Now his wife is dead and neither of his sons will forgive him, despite 1000 days of sobriety. Whilst training Tommy, he tries to muscle in to Brendan’s success too, exclaiming “that’s my son!”. His selfish clamouring to be a part of the limelight made me genuinely sad, as though he too is trying to go back to when Tommy was a rising star as a teen. His desperation is palpable as he tries to pull himself together, as he tries to rebuild his life, again, to no apparent avail.

The only female character in the film is Brendan’s wife, Tess (Jennifer Morrison). She’s mostly superfluous though, and I’m not sure that she really provided any function in the film. It feels like they put her so the film wasn’t entirely male orientated, but they didn’t give her any great lines or much of a role to get her teeth into. She just supported her husband like any good wife should, and it’s a shame that she was washed out by the testosterone.


  • Redemption: Bringing Warrior to Life
  • Brother Versus Brother
  • Philosophy in Combat
  • Simply Believe
  • Full Contact
  • Deleted Scene
  • Gag Reel
  • Audio Commentary

The script held the tension throughout, giving the audience reasons to like and dislike both characters in measure. The storytelling elevates Warrior to being more than a “sports movie”, and makes it a character piece set in a specific world to which we’re given access. The ‘against all odds’ aspect was a little shmultzy sometimes, but it didn’t go overboard with heavy-handed forgiving platitudes. At 140 minutes, it is a long picture, so if you don’t connect with the characters it will be something of an endurance test.

Warrior was much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. Whilst technically it isn’t the best movie out there I was left both adrenalin-buzzed and almost in tears. The experience of watching it was a tense and exhilarating one; strong performances and complex characters really make it what it is.

About Frances Taylor

Frances Taylor

Frances likes words and pictures, regardless of media. She finds great comfort and escape in film, and is attracted to anything character-driven with a strong story. Through these stories, she will find meaning in the world. Three movies that Frances thinks are really good for this are You and Me and Everyone We Know (Miranda July), I’m A Cyborg, But That’s OK (Chan-Wook Park), and How I Ended This Summer (Alexei Popogrebsky).

When Frances grows up, she would like to write words and make pictures and have cool people recognise her on the street and tell her that they really enjoy her work.

She can be found overreacting and over-caffeinated on Twitter @penny_face, a childhood moniker from her grandmother owing to her gloriously round face.