Thursday, February 2, 2012

Review: Warrior

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Tom Hardy is putting together an impressive body of work.  He is most associated with his role as Eames in Inception and his upcoming appearance as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, but Hardy has also appeared in films such as Black Hawk Down, Layer Cake, and RocknRolla.  Knowing this, I was curious to see his performance in Warrior.  I have to admit, that I didn’t have huge expectations for the movie.  I knew there was a lot of positive buzz for the film during its theatrical release, but as someone who is not really a fan of MMA, I was not sure if the plot would appeal to me.

The film that director Gavin O’Connor has put together is gritty and raw from its casting, to its cinematography, to its execution.  Three men – a father and two sons – estranged from one another and broken in their respective lives are brought back together against the backdrop of an epic Mixed Martial Arts tournament.  The physical violence inflicted in the ring runs a distant second to the emotional torment and resentment that festers between these three men and the tournament serves as the catalyst to draw these issues to the forefront. 

Joel Edgerton (who looks like a more menacing Conan O’Brien) plays the classic underdog, Tom Hardy – the raging inferno, and Nick Nolte – the alcoholic father.  Each character could easily have become a bag of clich├ęs, but the three actors do a great job of brining real depth to their respective roles.  Edgerton is believable as a journeyman fighter – turn teacher – turn fighter again and is incredibly easy to root for.  Tom Hardy brings an intense physicality to his role as Tommy Conlon – a man with a singular focus and a gift for inflicting pain.  And Nick Nolte owns the role of Paddy Conlon and masterfully conveys a sense of pain and loss in the throaty way he delivers his lines.  As for the rest of the cast, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo, and Kevin Dunn are solid if not remarkable in balancing out the film. 

It’s not Shakespeare, but Warrior is very good for what it is – a film that has just the right mix of action and drama.  Not since Best of the Best, have I seen a film tests a man’s ability to remain dry eyed throughout.  It will probably never make anyone’s top ten list, but the movie will definitely entertain.  What more could anyone ask for?

Standout Performance:  Tom Hardy disappears into the role.  Look for him next in This Means War opposite Chris Pine.

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