The easiest way to describe The Warrior is to imagine The Fighter with more kicking and less crack. Luckily, it goes deeper than that, although we're not talking 20,000 leagues under the boxing ring here. Generally you just need to change all the adjectives and you've got the same story--two brothers have a past in boxing/mixed martial arts, and their overbearing/alcoholic parent eclipses their lives. In this film, Nick Nolte plays Paddy Conlon, the AWOL patriarch of the family who has kicked his alcoholism and seems to have taken an anger management class. His sons are Tom (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton), and they are in various states of disillusionment with their lives.
Brendan is a teacher, father, and husband, and excels at all of them. However, his work shaping young minds doesn't amount to much financially and he is in danger of losing his home. His younger brother Tom was the one stuck watching their mother die of cancer, and understandably, he walks the streets quietly simmering with anger (and to note, Tom Hardy's otherworldly deltoids greatly help him in this endeavor). Tom seeks his father out and requests that they train together for an upcoming tournament, but this "doesn't mean anything." Of course we all know it does, but since Tom Hardy is so frightening, who is going to argue with him?
Simultaneously, Brendan gets caught moonlighting as a mixed martial arts fighter and is suspended from teaching. So amazingly, in Whatta Coincidence Movie Land, and as the trailer tells you, the brothers end up fighting in the same tournament and later against each other. With so much about the movie given away from the get-go with the advertising, you may be wondering why you should bother to see it. The movie shouldn't really work, especially so hot on the heels of that other highly acclaimed and well-known picture about men who punch their feelings. Here's the great news: It's a knockout. Somehow, among the clichés and familiar story lines, the actors rise above the muck and make a movie that's entertaining to watch.
There's a surprising amount of humor that arrives at just the right times. The movie takes itself very seriously, complete with scenes about how much the boys hate their dad for not being there for them, or how crappy it is to not be able to keep up with mortgage payments. But some sharp wit and the reveal of what Tom Hardy's military accomplishments really are give it a nice spin. Plus, don't forget that watching MMA fighting is so visceral that it could even make the most prim kindergarten teacher scream for blood. Therefore, the movie ends up seeming like an MMA fight you ordered on PayPerView with an extended featurette at the beginning about the fighter's families. Normally that would be a huge bummer, but since you're watching Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte circle each other, it ratchets this up a notch or two.