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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Warrior | Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte and Jennifer Morrison | Review

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  4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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The venom flows and so do the violent body blows in this tale of two brothers and their alcoholic father.  The three, long estranged, comprise nothing like a nuclear family.  Atomic is more like it; blasted apart by a painful past that split them up into fragments, now sharing only DNA and a bitter history.

Tommy (Tom Hardy) left with his mother, who then died a slow, painful death after a prolonged illness.  Brendan stayed behind, unwilling to leave his girlfriend, now wife Tess (Jennifer Morrison).  Paddy, an alcoholic ex-boxer with an abusive past, still endures the wrath of both of his sons.

Brendan, now a physics teacher and Tommy, an ex-Marine, are at odds over the decisions they made as teens.  Tommy has the biggest chip on his shoulder than either of the other two men and sets them all on a collision course when he returns to Pittsburgh seeking Paddy to train him for the upcoming SPARTA mixed martial arts contest.  The huge purse is five million dollars to a single winner.

Tommy seethes with rage at his father, even changing his last name to Riordan; the family name is Condon.  He wants training but no explanations, apologies, excuses, or fresh starts from Paddy.

Brendan’s home is in foreclosure and one of his daughters has an expensive medical condition.  His job teaching high school physics is threatened when his side job as an MMA fighter in a strip club parking lot (which he does for the extra money) is revealed at the high school.  Desperate, he turns to training for the SPARTA purse himself.

The two brothers train separately, each ignorant of the other’s plans until they get much closer to cage time.  Brendan is the underdog, Tommy is the unstoppable sensation.  Tommy’s mysterious past (and a current motivation) is revealed by the press.  He’s not talking to anyone but possesses a strident aggression fueled by a coiled inner rage.

Brendan’s desperation propels him to punch and kick his way to the final bout where he will have to face…I’m sure you can see where this will end up, but there’s still the outcome to uncover.

Paddy is in achingly close proximity to both sons but light years away from reaching either of them.  The lonely old man drives a big Lincoln and listens to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick on a taped audio book.   Instead of reaping the rewards of old age, he is vilified for past cruelties and banned from meeting Brendan’s wife and kids.  His sorrow is like a dead weight he can never remove.

Reeling from the one-two punch of both his sons’ hatred, Paddy falls off wagon one night and howls his remorse in an anguished monologue about how Captain Ahab’s missteps took a terrible toll on his ship and crew.  It is apparent that he’s talking about the mangled relationships in his life.

You can expect vicious cage battles, head blows, kicks and punches that are the standard regalia of MMA, but it’s the quiet moments that speak the loudest.  Each of the men is torn, although Tommy fights hard, both internally and externally not to show it.  Brandon’s face is a map of determination and worry.  Paddy possesses the visage of the boxer he once was, with furrows added for each time he let his family down.

Nick Nolte is a shoo-in for an Oscar nod, with Tom Hardy right behind.  Joel Edgerton’s character is the most sympathetic of the three; he’s able to make his “good guy” kick ass with conflicted emotions.  It is one of the triumphs of the film that a Brit (Hardy) and an Aussie (Edgerton) come together to play two warring brothers from Pittsburgh and we buy it.  Professional wrestling fans will recognize Kurt Angle as one of the Sparta contestants.

Director Gavin O’Connor (Miracle) co-wrote the screenplay with Anthony Tambakis and Cliff Dorman; he takes care to showcase the small interactions that fuel relationships, whether painful, confusing, or joyous.  Fight scenes draw viewers into the vicious intimacy of MMA, heightened further by the blood feud and background of the splintered family unit.

Real life is full of the wounds that only a family knows how to inflict upon itself.  If the brothers had never stepped into a ring there’d still be enough emotional combat in Warrior to make its title viable.

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