79- Warrior [9.0]

Haunted by a tragic past, ex-Marine Tommy Conlon returns home for the first time in fourteen years to enlist the help of his father to train for SPARTA, the biggest winner-takes-all event in mixed martial arts history.

In some regards, Warrior is trapped in by the conventions of the sport film genre. Between a tournament with high stakes and an underdog tale, the easiest point to make is that you’ve seen a movie like this before. It’s with the astounding acting across the board and touches of a well written family story that separates Warrior from a lot of other sports films (I’m looking at you, The Fighter. I know I’m in the minority on that one, but it just did not work for me nearly the way this film did).

Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton turn in the finest performances of their careers (and that’s really hard for me to write as I’m still haunted by Hardy as the titular character in Bronson). The performance that I imagine will stay with me for a while is Nick Nolte as their father. Forget everything you’ve read about the man in papers over the last decade: Nolte can still act amongst the best of them and really deserves recognition for his work here.

It’s unfortunate that this film didn’t do much better at the box office, as it should certainly be up for best picture of the year. Props to Gavin O’Connor for getting past the cliches and creating something terrific, along with getting some remarkable performances out of his actors.

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