Top 365 Films – #157 – Warrior (2011)

Top 365 Films - Warrior - Tom Hardy and Joel EdgertonDIRECTED BY: Gavin O’Connor

STARRING: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo, Kevin Dunn, Vanessa Martinez, Noah Emmerich, Denzel Whitaker, Maximiliano Hernández, Fernando Chien, Erik Apple, Nate Marquardt, Anthony Johnson, Roan Carneiro and Kurt Angle

BUDGET: $25m

EARNED (Worldwide): $23m

AWARDS: None (Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actor)



The youngest son of an alcoholic former boxer returns home, where he’s trained by his father for competition in a mixed martial arts tournament – a path that puts the fighter on a collision course with his estranged, older brother.


Warrior follows the story of the Conlon family, with Tommy Riordan Conlon returning to his hometown of Pittsburgh and enlists the help of his father, a recovered alcoholic and his former coach, to train him for an MMA tournament called Sparta where the the winner will receive $5m. Also entering the competition is his brother Brendan Conlon, a former UFC fighter unable to make ends meet as a school teacher, hoping to win the money to provide for his family and escape their money troubles. The Sparta tournament sets the brothers on a collision course to confront the issues that tore them apart.


Warrior is a predictable enough film (which the trailer gives you the familiarity of the plot) but my god to the depth of the performances make the film better than expected. While we get the reasoning behind the brothers entering the Sparta tournament, Brendan to save the family home and provide for his wife and kids and Tommy looking to give his winnings away to a widow of a fallen friend, but essentially the film centers on a word that would be trademarked by Vin Diesel at this point if it was an option: family. Thankfully without using flashbacks, we get a sense and understanding of where the brothers are coming from and why they’ve been distant for so long, which falls in part of their father Paddy being the catalyst. Brendan may be dubbed an underdog in the tournament but he’s the most leveled of the two brothers, he fell in love and has a family where as Tommy is a fractured the most from their childhood as well as everything that’s gone on in his life leading up to this tournament. The fight scenes are well crafted and executed, showing us the moves and feeling the hits that the fighters take and O’Connor sets the pace nicely for the actors to have their moments to shine. Tom Hardy is a force of understated nature in this film, quietly simmering with rage locked inside himself other than to let it loose in the fights and to verbally taunt his father on his upbringing. Joel Edgerton is terrific as the polar opposite of his brother, making this sympathetic character someone to root for in the tournament to come through the otherside victorious. Nick Nolte however may steal the film over the two brothers as the recovered alcoholic father Paddy, a man disgraced by his past and desperately seeking forgiveness from his two sons, which may appear as impossible when you see the pain in Tommy and Brendan’s eyes whenever he appears on screen with them. Surrounded by a great supporting cast (including Jennifer Morrison as Brendan’s wife and Frank Grillo as Brendan’s trainer) to go along with great lead performances Warrior is a terrific film.


FAVOURITE SCENE: As much as the inevitable Tommy vs Brendan final act may be everyone’s favourite scene in the film but for me it would be Nick Nolte’s alcoholic breakdown performance in the hotel scene as Paddy Conlon. That scene broke me with Notle’s performance and pretty much believe that scene was what cemented him getting an Oscar Nomination that year.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: ‘You’re trying? Now? Where were you when it mattered? I needed this guy back when I was a kid. I don’t need you now. It’s too late now. Everything’s already happened. You and Brendan don’t seem to understand that. Let me explain something to you: the only thing I have in common with Brendan Conlon is that we have absolutely no use for you.’ – Tommy Conlon

DID YOU KNOW?: The role of the promoter, played by director Gavin O’Connor, was originally written for TapouT founder ‘Charles ‘Mask’ Lewis’. Lewis was killed by a drunk driver just before shooting began. O’Connor spoke at Lewis’ memorial service on April 14, 2009, six days before principal photography began. The film is dedicated to him.

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