If there were one word I would use to describe Gavin O’Connor’s Warrior it would be “intense.” The characters are intense, the emotions they’re burdened with are intense and don’t even get me started on the situations they find themselves in…man, they’re intense! Too bad O’Connor and his two co-writers didn’t take the same approach to the film’s screenplay, which is nothing more than a pastiche of clichés that reaches the “you’ve got to be kidding me” stage long before the final knockout blow is delivered.
To be fair, it would hard to come up with anything fresh where fight movies are concerned (which begs the question, “Why make them anymore?”) but the film does help itself by choosing as its arena of dramatic conflict the world of mixed martial arts, where a bored millionaire puts together a single-elimination tournament with a $5 million purse. This attracts the attention of Brendan Colon (Joel Edgerton) a former fighter whose teaching salary isn’t going to prevent his house from being repossessed. Coincidentally, his brother Tommy (Thomas Hardy), fighting under an assumed name, is desperate to take home the purse himself, so much so that he reluctantly reunites with his father (Nick Nolte) to train, despite a history of abuse between them.
Credit it to the cast’s devotion and O’Connor’s nimble direction that we initially get wrapped up in this tale. Hardy and Edgerton are of a singular purpose here and the sincerity they bring to scenes both in and out of the octagon is impressive. Nolte is quite good as well in the sort of turn that gets Oscar consideration, as a man seeking redemption yet is unable to grasp it when it’s within reach. That being said, their fine efforts can’t negate the script’s hackneyed conventions that include upsets, reunions during the big fight and even a nemesis who’s an “unstoppable” Russian. These uninspired conventions become laughable, delivering a knockout punch that takes this film out of contention in a way O’Connor couldn’t have intended.
Contact Chuck Koplinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.