Warrior Is Still An Underappreciated Masterpiece

Tommy (Tom Hardy, left) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton, right) in “Warrior.” Courtesy of Lionsgate.

Warrior marks the tenth anniversary of its theatrical release and in a perfect world, this film should have garnered many Oscar nominations.

U.S. Marine Tommy Riordan Conlon (Tom Hardy) starts training for a mixed martial arts tournament shortly after reuniting with his father, Paddy (Nick Nolte). Paddy wasn’t the best father when Tommy was growing up. He was both a drunk and abusive. While he’s training Tommy, his other son, Brendan (Joel Edgerton), has turned to fighting as a way of making money. Teaching high school physics isn’t really bringing home the money that his family needs especially since Brendan and Tess’s (Jennifer Morrison) daughter has health issues. Paddy tries to get Brendan and Tommy to reconcile early on but it’s to no avail. A happy ending will come but it won’t be until after the two duke it out in the ring at the end of the film. One might have to lose in the ring but at the end of the day, they both win.

The theme of family runs strong throughout Warrior. Mixed martial arts may have a way of bonding them but it’s up to them to do the hard work of finding their way back into the other’s heart. Redemption always has a way of winning people over. Tommy didn’t have it easy and even now, he’s still running from the past. But yet, he’s there in the ring with his brother. Even if Brendan might now wish to reconcile, Tommy has no interest so Brendan has to draw it out of him.

If you’ve watched Gavin O’Connor’s work before, you know that the man can direct. Not just that but he has a way of elevating a sports drama to the next level. We saw it almost two decades ago with Miracle and just before the pandemic with The Way Back. And in this film, he brings out some top-notch performances from Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, and Nick Nolte. How the Academy snubbed the majority of their work is just unbelievable. Only Nolte earned an Oscar nom for Best Supporting Actor and rightfully so. This film blew me away when I first saw it on the big screen a decade ago and the case remains the same today.

What remains so surprising is how this film underperformed at the box office. Despite having positive reviews, it didn’t break even. Could this possibly explain why the Academy overlooked the film for the most part? I don’t know. There’s such a moving story here and the film has all the ingredients that you love to see. Two estranged brothers coming to terms as well as an alcoholic father. The film certainly falls into a lot of the cliché trappings but Gavin O’Connor is able to elevate the film especially with the trio of performances. I’ll happily talk up Warrior because it’s such a good one. The picture is so beautifully shot, too. Mark Isham’s score also hits the right notes and even incorporates Beethoven’s ninth symphony as a recurring motif.

Through a few powerhouse performances, Warrior shows how tough it is to break the strong family bond even when family members are estranged.

DIRECTOR: Gavin O’Connor
SCREENWRITERS: Gavin O’Connor & Anthony Tambakis & Cliff Dorfman
CAST: Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo, and Nick Nolte

Lionsgate released Warrior on September 9, 2011.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.