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Tom Hardy
Nick Nolte
Joel Edgerton
Jennifer Morrison
Frank Grillo
Kevin Dunn.
Gavin O'Connor.
Gavin O'Connor.
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Tom Hardy pulls no punches…

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After 14 years, ex-Marine Tommy Conlon (Hardy) returns to Pittsburgh to prepare for the world’s biggest mixed martial arts tournament, reconnecting with his father, Paddy (Nolte), who will train him. Meanwhile, his estranged brother, Brendan (Edgerton), realises he has to return to his old fighting ways if he has any hope of saving his family from insolvency.

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Like The Fighter earlier this year, Gavin O’Connor’s Warrior balances brutal in-ring action with fractured-family drama, fixing on the tensions between two brothers. Like The Fighter, it features a hugely impressive, transformative performance from a British actor, who is next year to be seen in The Dark Knight Rises. And, like The Fighter, it’s entirely predictable in its sports-movie mechanics, but none the less enjoyable for it.
There are differences, of course. The Fighter was a true story; Warrior is entirely fictional. And where The Fighter was immersed in the familiar sweat and blood of boxing, Warrior’s arena is the newer one of mixed martial arts (MMA) — that punchy young sport currently elbow-striking its way into popular consciousness.

Exemplified by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), MMA is a bruising blend of, well, whatever you like, really. A match can end with a good, old-fashioned KO — that’s for those who prefer the ‘sprawl-and-brawl’ variety — or the contestants can grapple each other down onto the mat with a well-executed submission hold, finishing the fight with a tap-out. Then there’s the ‘ground-and-pound’ style, whereby a takedown is followed by a flurry of punches and elbows. So where a boxing movie has to extract its thrills from a relatively limited repertoire of moves and styles (not to denigrate its tactical richness), MMA offers a wealth of variety — which O’Connor, to his credit, uses to maximum effect.

Most obviously we see this in the contrast between the two alienated siblings at his story’s centre. In one corner, we have Joel Edgerton’s Brendan Conlon, the older of the two, an ex-fighter now working as a physics teacher, a family man struggling to make ends meet. He’s contained, thoughtful, quietly determined — and as such, he’s more of a technique man, using endurance, willpower and submission holds to achieve victory.

In the other corner we have his prodigal brother, Tommy (Tom Hardy). Tommy’s been absent from their hometown of Pittsburgh for 14 years, having left with the pair’s domestically abused mother. He’s an ex-Marine, fresh out of Iraq, and is a perfect storm of directed rage — even though, paradoxically, he approaches his recovering-alcoholic father, Paddy (Nick Nolte), to train him. In the cage, Tommy’s pure sprawl-and-brawl: a sharp-shock fighter, all tightly coiled power. Hardy’s physique is astonishing, more so even than in his portrayal of Charles Bronson for Nicolas Winding Refn. Bulked up primarily across the shoulders and neck, lending him a threateningly hunched presence, he’s a muscle-laden monster (bringing to mind the UFC’s own raging bull, Brock Lesnar), but also entirely convincing as a blue-collar boy from Philly — with extreme emotional issues.

That he and Edgerton — two very different fighters — are set on a collision course from the outset is giving nothing away. But what marks out O’Connor’s film from most ‘sports’ pictures is that it’s not about one contestant, or team, but rather follows both sides, dividing the film, and our sympathies, straight down the middle.

In terms of winning those sympathies, Hardy does have a much tougher time. His precise back story is shrouded in mystery, and at first it’s hard to accept his sheer unpleasantness to those once closest to him, even his once-abusive father. He’s not big on forgiveness, and his resentment sometimes comes across as petulance. Edgerton, by contrast, is a nice guy through and through. He’s a teacher weirdly loved by his pupils, who call him ‘Mr. C’ rather than ‘Sir’. He’s the kind of dad who stays up late, attentively repairing his daughters’ dolls’ house piano. In a lesser actor’s hands, many of his scenes could become mawkish, but Edgerton thankfully has sufficient charm to make them work. He is also, by the time he and Tommy separately arrive at the big, climactic tournament (‘Sparta’, in Atlantic City — think Vegas on the beach), very much the underdog: the old-timer, a bit of a joke, only on the bill because someone else suffered an injury. Tommy, meanwhile, is a true dark horse. One with a hell of a kick.

That the pair eventually face each other in the ring hardly comes as a surprise, but by the point they do, it’s genuinely tough to predict how the match will play out. And the build up to this moment is expertly massaged by O’Connor (his 2004 film Miracle proved a valuable sports-movie training ground), who provides a massively uplifting climax. The matches themselves (for which Hardy and Edgerton mix it up with some real-life fighters) are intensely thrilling, while the emotional peak is absolutely, get-you-right-here, air-punchingly stirring. For all its leanings towards obviousness, Warrior goes the distance.

It hardly rewrites the rulebook, but Warrior is a powerful, moving and brilliant sports-pic-cum-family drama. Like The Fighter, but with kicking.

Reviewed by Dan Jolin

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Average user rating for Warrior
Empire Star Rating

3 star film

Okay, but very overated. Not even better than The Fighter. So predictable, you cannot believe it's actually over when it is ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by david hayes at 15:56, 04 March 2013 | Report This Post

90% melodrama, 5% sentimentality, 5% Nick Nolte and Tom Hardy mumbling.

Still enjoyably good though- even though the outline was probably written by a computer. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by stevos at 00:07, 15 December 2012 | Report This Post

Shine on ! Nick Nolte.

If it weren't for Nolte ...........This film would have been rubbish. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by antosh25 at 10:10, 04 November 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Enter Ahab

Hardy was incredible. ... More

Posted by Vidal at 04:10, 05 October 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Raw And Memorable, Just Like The Sport

Its extremely difficult to describe such a brutish movie as anything else. The fact it managed to also contain scenes of elegance and raw emotion from the full spectrum is very impressive. Fantastic performances from all around, this is far more than simply a "modernised rocky clone". This is a must watch, it really is fantastic ... More

Posted by kumar at 20:30, 03 October 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Raw And Memorable, Just Like The Sport

No way, this film was perfect I was engrossed all the way to the end. It ticked all the boxes, a great nights entertainment ... More

Posted by bryanbotsareli at 07:18, 20 September 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Raw And Memorable, Just Like The Sport

Watched this last night and I'm wondering if it's the most disappointing ending I've ever seen. Disappointing in that Escape To Victory has a more realistic ending. Hardy was superb in it though, he really brought a level of intensity and class, along with Nick Nolte that the rest of the film was sadly lacking. The final fight scene felt like it was reshot it was so out of synch with the rest of the film, I wonder did the studio put the foot down to ensure the standard formulaic ending. A five-... More

Posted by The Hooded Man at 14:07, 05 September 2012 | Report This Post

Raw And Memorable, Just Like The Sport

A somewhat disappointing trend that features very prominently in the majority of sports films around today is the complete predictability of what will happen in the final reel. Surprises are few and far between, and filmmakers attempt to rely on building up tension rather than not giving the audience what they fully expect. Warrior does tick this box but avoids the pitfalls that would make it a strictly 'average' watch by making the focus the triangle between Nolte, Hardy and Edgerton. Which is ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 02:42, 22 April 2012 | Report This Post


Superior to the already brilliant Fighter in every area. The leading trio were remarkable, the direction top notch and what could on paper have been a nauseatingly cliched sports flick became something truly special. Up with Drive and Moneyball as my favourite of 2011. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Blyman at 13:01, 01 April 2012 | Report This Post


I was absolutely blown away by how good this movie was!!! I'm a UFC fan as well but I was still whincing at some of the moves on display!! Just everything about this movie was sheer excellence. The acting is absolutely top-notch by everyone involved, I didn't see any mention of Nick Nolte in this review which is surprising because he was bloody brilliant!!! Tom Hardy and Joel Edgarton are absolutely amazing in this, both there physical work and acting is just world class!!! Loved this movie!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by gavlaa32 at 12:29, 08 March 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Warrior

Absolutely amazing. Great acting by the leads especially Hardy. An inspiring film with brutal fight scenes ... More

Posted by Stringfellowfilms at 19:23, 06 March 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Warrior

Just watched it the other day absolutely amazing and inspiring. Great acting from the main leads especially Tom hardy. All round great film with brutal fight scenes ... More

Posted by Stringfellowfilms at 19:20, 06 March 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Overrated

L: ladybooger rented this solely on the basis of Tom Hardy whom I am a huge fan of. I didn't think this was better than the fighter largely because the it was a little far-fetched. Also the back story was a little vague. I wanted to know exactly what Nolte did to estrange his family so much. It could have delved deeper. Tom Hardy, I agree, is still the best actor around at the moment. sp; Really?  It's pretty obviously implied that he was an alcoholic wife and child beater. ... More

Posted by Invader_Ace at 13:08, 02 March 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Unexpected

I was blown away by this movie!! I think it's easily one of the best sports movies I've ever seen because there is no defined good guy - bad guy, I really did not know who I was rooting for or how it would end. I'll be buying this ... More

Posted by musht at 01:31, 02 March 2012 | Report This Post


I was doubtful about seeing this, as I thought it was going to be the same as other action movies or one of those bad attempts at the Rocky saga etc but was pleasantly suprised. I spent most of the film in tears. Loved everything about it and highly recommend. Tom Hardy is one to watch out for. I have one sentence for this movie: For such a toughy, it was incredibly emotional. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by epsnarky at 21:00, 24 February 2012 | Report This Post

Excellent Warrior

Well written, well acted, well directed. Great fight scenes. An outstanding film. Love Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy. Where are the Oscar noms for them? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 22:17, 23 February 2012 | Report This Post


.... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by S. C. Lee at 22:10, 21 February 2012 | Report This Post


rented this solely on the basis of Tom Hardy whom I am a huge fan of. I didn't think this was better than the fighter largely because the it was a little far-fetched. Also the back story was a little vague. I wanted to know exactly what Nolte did to estrange his family so much. It could have delved deeper. Tom Hardy, I agree, is still the best actor around at the moment. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ladybooger at 08:44, 07 February 2012 | Report This Post


rented this solely on the basis of Tom Hardy whom I am a huge fan of. I didn't think this was better than the fighter largely because the it was a little far-fetched. Also the back story was a little vague. I wanted to know exactly what Nolte did to estrange his family so much. It could have delved deeper. Tom Hardy, I agree, is still the best actor around at the moment. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ladybooger at 08:44, 07 February 2012 | Report This Post

Total Film!? - Total Idiots!

Warrior is Epic! Way better than The Fighter! Hardy (who in my opinion, along with Gosling is the best actor around at the moment) is amazing, so is Nolte (hope he gets the Oscar!). This is a must see!!!!!!!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by guysalisbury at 11:32, 31 January 2012 | Report This Post

Loved It

Better than "The Fighter". The two leads are amazing, as is Nolte. This deserves a spot among the "Best Sports Movies Ever". ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Turd Ferguson at 16:08, 22 December 2011 | Report This Post



Empire User Rating

Posted by Ciaran McDaid at 00:23, 16 October 2011 | Report This Post

RE: Actually Air Punched Nearly Applauded At End

L: Dead Mike f all UFC and MMA is an ugly sport unlike boxing which is much more civilized but that's a matter of opinion.t is a metter of opinion. Of which yours is ignorant & misinformed. gree - the 'ugly' quote compared to the quote of 'civilized' for boxing is absolutely laughable. MMA is better regulated, a LOT safer (due to the officiating) and a LOT less likely to result in permanent injury due to impact not being concentrated to one's head. I have yet to come across any... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Paul2j at 09:39, 06 October 2011 | Report This Post

RE: Warrior - The New Shawshank

Saw this last night with the girlfriend and we both loved it. In fact, I'm not ashamed to say I was a tad emotional at the end. One of the year's best in my opinion. ... More

Posted by Timon at 10:19, 04 October 2011 | Report This Post

RE: No Nick Notle mention

Very good film but think the 5 stars is definitely too much. More the result of Empire's (fairly well justified) man crush on Tom Hardy than the quality of the film. Acting was excellent, Hardy is something of a machine and pretty much cacking myself at the thought of him as Bane in The Dark Knight Rise. Could have done without some of the cheesier scenes - apart from the scenes he shared with Edgerton at the start, Kevin Dunn should have been cut from the film-  all the school set scenes ... More

Posted by tjf00 at 16:31, 02 October 2011 | Report This Post

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