tom_hardy_web.jpgWhat do you get when you mix a lot of male aggression, a loving marriage and a broken family trying to mend itself?  A pretty good movie that speaks to men and women, the young and the old.

In Warrior, two brothers compete in the Super Bowl of mixed martial arts called Sparta.  Be not deceived.  This tidy little tagline may seem to be just another run-of-the-mill fighting film but it’s the heart, the acting and the overall feel of the film that really define it.

Tommy (Tom Hardy) is a Marine and war hero who has come home to his estranged, now sober, father, Paddy (Nick Nolte).  Tommy has a deep- rooted hatred for the drunkard of a father he knew before he and his mother left to move across the country.  He is a brooding man with a chip on his shoulder the size of Pennsylvania, where most of the film is set.

Brendan (Joel Edgerton), Tommy’s elder brother, has a more heart-wrenching storyline.  Completely estranged from his father, Brendan and his wife Tess (Jennifer Morrison) are working four jobs between them to make ends meet.  They are upside down on their mortgage after re-financing their nice suburban house to pay their daughter’s medical bills. 

Screenwriters Gavin O’Connor, who also directed and produced the film, Anthony Tambakis and Cliff Dorman have created a tight story with meaty characters.  They never deviate from the story and give in to Hollywood fluff, like the token, sexy love interest for Tommy or the steamy sex scene or two.

Tommy and Brendan’s stories and their relationship as brothers take center-stage and stay that way.  The relational dynamics between them and their father is a sub-plot all its own.  How do you forgive your now sober father after he ruined your childhood with his then drunken ways? 

Paddy, a recovering alcoholic who listens to religious tapes on his Walkman and in his car, is trying desperately to build a relationship with his sons.  But neither of them is willing to forgive or forget.  And that’s when O’Connor and company tug at the viewer’s heartstrings and show the hand of God, without shoving it down your throat.

It appears that God is with Tommy, Paddy, Brendan and Tess from the beginning of the film, when Tommy appears on Paddy’s doorstep. You could say God has a way of letting bad things happen so that some good can come out of it.  But it’s hard to explain these things in a short review.  You will have to see the film for yourself.  I’ll just say this: Everything happens for a reason and you know when it’s a blessing in disguise when things work out better then you could have hoped.

That apart, there is stellar acting in Warrior.  Hardy’s performance as the brooding Tommy is can’t miss.  He can take a dramatic scene and inject some humor into it in a way that only he can do.  He did the same with his sexy, sarcastic Eames in Inception.  If I may be so bold, Hardy is at his sexiest as the well-sculpted, menacing, angry Tommy.  He’s also a fierce actor.

Edgerton, a veritable unknown, makes the underdog Brendan someone to root for.  Even though Tommy is ultra-sexy, Brendan’s underdog story makes me root for him more.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Nolte’s stellar performance.  He is Paddy — mind, body, and spirit.

Despite its name suggesting that it would be yet another action film, Warrior is the type of movie that you can’t watch and sit still.  It will make you laugh, cry, scream and holler, as if you were watching your favorite sport. 

It will also make you want to hug every member of your family, including that annoying sibling that you can’t live with.  It’s just that kind of Oscar-worthy film that speaks to everyone.  I’m hoping the Academy will take my little hint on that one.

Kimberly Grant may be reached at and

Photo: Photo by Chuck Zlotnick

Actor Tom Hardy stars as Tommy Conlon in ‘Warrior.’