Perhaps by being in the shadow of 2010’s heavily lauded The Fighter, 2011’s Warrior, directed by Gavin O’Connor (Miracle, Pride and Glory), seemed to sail in and out of theatres far too quickly. Now that it’s on DVD, it really is not one to be missed.
Tom Hardy has driven far past the up-and-comer stage by this point in his career. Though not yet a household name, after this year’s ending to Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, there is no doubt that Hardy’s turn as Batman’s enemy, Bane, will give people pause to perhaps recall their having seen Hardy in Inception; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Bronson; RocknRolla; his debut in HBO’s Band of Brothers, or one of his many other performances.
In any case, his take on character Tommy Conlon, a deeply wounded and distraught ex-marine with a killer left hook, in Warrior is one that carries a lot of weight (figuratively and literally–the man is a beast). As a prodigal son, he returns home from his wandering to hire his father, Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte, in an Oscar nominating performance), to train him for a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting tournament.
Paddy’s relationship with his sons, Tommy and his brother Brendan, is trying to say the least. Brendan (Joel Edgerton) won’t even speak to his father, and enough slight but defining references are made in the film to indicate Paddy’s alcoholic, abusive past to know that Brendan acts not without his reasons.
Brendan is a husband and father trying to lead a legitimate life as a teacher, but winds up entering the fighting contest as well to make up the extra cash he needs to support his family. In an ultimate showdown, the MMA contest pits brother vs. brother, wrought in a battle that depicts more than a mere punch-out, but a culminating of their tragic past and collision of their lives where they are at now.
The film and overall story would all seem a bit trite and simplistic if it were placed in the hands of lesser actors. But Hardy, Nolte, and Edgerton bring such life into the broken Conlon men they portray, that the audience can’t help but be drawn into the drama, the pain, and the everlasting hope that somehow this family will make an effort to become whole through forgiveness once again.
Hopefully Nolte’s Oscar nomination will draw more audiences to a film that was seemingly overlooked. But in truth, it seems Hardy’s portrayal of a shadowy, enigmatic Tommy should lead him to be the one walking away with hopes of Oscar gold.