Plot reveals more than fighting in ‘Warrior’

by David Dixon

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Courtesy of Lionsgate Publicity

Courtesy of Lionsgate Publicity

The new drama “Warrior” will not change a person’s opinion about mixed martial arts. It is an intense and violent sport that plays a big part in this particular modern parable, but writer and director Gavin O’Connor is far more interested in the two men fighting than the actual action itself.

It may sound corny, but the fact is the people at the center of the movie, Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton), are so three-dimensional their stories are what the audience remembers the most.

Despite the fact that “Warrior” is plot-driven, the mixed martial arts sequences are visually striking. Every battle is wonderfully stylized and almost beautiful to watch. The fighting events are perfectly paced and central to the plot, which makes each clash gripping.

But enough about the brawls. Those moments will not convince all moviegoers “Warrior” is worth the price of admission. What will resonate with a larger crowd is the emotional depth of the main characters.

American audiences know Hardy best for playing the loquacious and comedic sidekick in “Inception.” However, despite his witty demeanor in the mind-bending thriller, his character in “Warrior” is of a man of few words. His dialogue mostly consists of him insulting his formerly alcoholic father, Paddy (Nick Nolte).

He has every right to be angry with his old man: Their history becomes clear as the film unfolds and will not be discussed here for fear of giving away too much information. Hardy is unsentimental in his acting choices, and this choice shows the metaphorical scars of a miserable soul.

Brendan, within minutes of his introduction, is unbelievably likeable. A high school teacher and family man, almost everyone he knows seems to look up to or respect him. He is the kind of guy whose biggest flaw in life is that he is perhaps too nice, which is evident in his biggest confrontations outside the ring.

Edgerton makes his character endearing through a master-class breakout performance. Watch some of the facial techniques he utilizes throughout the film. During the biggest conflict unrelated to mixed martial arts, pay close attention to his face just before the scene ends. He delivers a haunting expression that lingers in the audience’s memory days after watching “Warrior.” Edgerton is another example of how playing a good guy can be just as meaty, performance-wise, as transforming into a scene-stealing villain.

As the inevitable climax arrives, one begins to wonder if the ending can possibly live up to everything preceding it. “Warrior” could have been the biggest cop-out in recent years. Readers who have seen the advertisements will know exactly what the comment beforehand is referring to.

As it turns out, the conclusion is handled wonderfully. From the song that plays in the background to what actually takes place on screen, everything about the closing moment makes complete sense, and it leads to a simple and effective verbal exchange that will leave moviegoers misty-eyed.

“Warrior” gets so much right that the biggest complaint about it is the trailer. It gives away three major plot twists, ruining a lot of the surprises. That is not to say the trailer minimizes the experience. Folks in the audience who have watched the spoiler-heavy previews will still have to admit the picture is glorious.

Information about “Warrior” can be found at warriorfilm.com.

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