“Tonight At The Movies” calls Gavin O’ Connor’s “Warrior” a finer film than “The Fighter.” Is it? Well no, but it’s got heart, and it proves that whether it be in the ring or the cage, heart still goes a long way.
An MMA (mixed martial arts) gran prix is taking place in Atlantic City with sixteen middle-weight fighters attending. Two estranged brothers from two very different walks of life, Tommy Riordan (Tom Hardy of Inception) and Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan of the upcoming Gatsby) plan to fight for the $5,000,000 purse.
Brendan is a physics teacher and family man with a fighter’s past, who may be losing his home. Tommy is a mysterious transient with a soldier’s past, looking to provide for the family of a fallen friend. Both goals mean everything to them but when the last round comes, only one can win, and that payoff is what makes this entry to the genre so fresh.
Most other sports films have only two possible outcomes. Either the underdog wins (“Rudy”) or loses (“Rocky”) and learns that winning isn’t everything. Here, the protagonists go an hour without even seeing each other while they develop equally forceful personalities, so it’s almost impossible to fully predict the third act, which is an extraordinary feat for any movie.
The real contender though is Nick Nolte (Tropic Thunder.) He plays Tommy’s trainer and down-and-out father, Paddy Conlon, the drunk who beat his children and drove his wife away. At least he was, until he sobered up. When Tommy returns, he is less than elated at his father’s presence. He can never forgive the scars, but he needs a trainer. Paddy obviously wants to reconcile but knows he owes his sons something in his fists other than pain. His screen time is unfortunately limited, but what’s there is Oscar worthy.
The fights themselves were usually short but fierce. They show the spectator response and wave the camera around a bit too much initially but as the bouts become more meaningful, the camera work gains its focus.
Final Verdict: Some corny humor and melodrama knock it down but ultimately it’s the performances and third act which get it right back up. It’s no Fighter, but hey, winning isn’t everything.
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