The heart and soul of the film are Tom Edgerton and Tom Hardy as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters who are on a career collision course under the watchful eye of their father, played by Nick Nolte.
Warrior's power truly emanates from its leads. Edgerton and Hardy put on an acting clinic. The duo are simply astounding in their commitment to not only their roles, but the realism that was required of them to physically portray their characters beyond the personal intensity of capturing a character. Ask any fan of MMA and they would tell you witnessing Hardy as Brendan Conlon and Edgerton as Tommy Conlon, it is impossible not to believe they couldn't jump into a real ring.
Then, there's Nolte as their father, Paddy. His gruff persona bleeds through his performance. No, he is not playing himself by any means. But it speaks to the actor's talent that he is able to channel aspects of himself that mirror his character while still bringing the fatherly nature of his role to life without reservations.
Early buzz on the film had some calling it this generation's Rocky. Warrior works as a film all on its own merit. We can see Rocky comparisons, but Warrior is a completely different beast. There is the triumph of spirit element that it shares with the Sylvester Stallone classic -- and it is about fighters in a ring. But, in our mind, that is where the comparison ends.
Warrior possesses a completely different dynamic and that takes us to the point of how the film is more about family than it is about MMA fighting. The key to Warrior's success lies in its ability to mine the vibrancy of family and how those relationships are more complex and at times more volatile than any nail-biting fighting scene.
As The Fighter successfully also made its film about the dysfunctional family at the heart of its story, so too does Warrior. Sure, the fight scenes are powerful, compelling and terse. But the moments between brothers Edgerton and Hardy coupled with their different relationship with their father, as embodied by Nolte, are almost more intense and volatile.
In the end, Warrior -- in our opinion -- is not a sports movie as much as it follows in the legacy of films such as Legends of the Fall in its ability to take the audience inside the world of brothers and their relationship with their father.