Warrior: Fight for Country, Fight for Family (2011)

Posted: April 24, 2012 in Action, Drama, Sport

The Conlon family has been broken for years. Devastated by the separation of their parents, brothers Brendan and Tommy parted ways. Brendan ended up marrying his high school sweetheart and raising a family. As a former UFC fighter, he settled down after his retirement and became a physics teacher. Tommy took care of his mother and then went off into the service. While his actions in the military were a mystery, he disappeared from his tour of service. With financial challenges reaching a breaking point, Brendan decides to start engaging in parking lot MMA fights to earn some extra money, while Brendan returns to Pittsburgh and begrudgingly stays with his father. Separately, both brothers begin to train for a major MMA fighting tournament, pitting 40 fighters against each other for a $5 million purse. Brendan sees an opportunity to win for the sake of his family, while Tommy seeks redemption for he experiences during his time in the service, but there are 38 other challenges in their way of achieving their dreams.

Starring: Joel Edgerton (Brendan Conlon), Tom Hardy (Tommy Condon), Nick Nolte (Paddy Conlon), Jennifer Morrison (Tess Conlon), Frank Grillo (Frank Campana), Kevin Dunn (Principal Zito), Bryan Callen (as himself), Sam Sheridan (as himself), Maximilliano Hernandez (Colt Boyd)

Though an unlikely story, the cast portrays the events with a realism that draws in the viewer to connect with each of their plights. Brendan, as portrayed by Joel Edgerton, is an honest man who struggles for his failure to provide comfortably for his family. Edgerton is able to give an underdog feel to his character, playing the fighting from a smarter angle while seemingly outmatched by his opponents’ strength. With his wife, played by Jennifer Morrison, he expresses his apprehension with involving her in the fight world again, but he also cares strongly about the life he can provide for his family. Frank Grillo, who plays trainer Frank Campana, exhibits a strength in leadership and sense of wisdom for the sport. Tom Hardy, while generally a very entertaining actor to watch, comes off a little extra hard in this film. He appears so stubborn in his approach to his relationships with his family that he actually successfully carries over his issues in how he approaches his fights. For his father, played by Nick Nolte, there is a sense of sadness for what must have been a very difficult past. While representing some of the challenges with going sober, his struggles get extended into the attempts to reestablish he relationships with his sons.

  

While the performance by Nick Nolte was widely recognized for its strength of character, Gavin O’Connor put together a rather compelling story as a whole. On Brendan’s side, he is set up to be an underdog from the beginning. In none of the fights represented in the film does he successfully take out an opponent with ease, but he is clearly able to take a beating and uses a more calculated process to find a moment of weakness to pull his opponent into submission. In a similar way, his character fights his demons outside of the ring in the same way. When he gets misled by the bank on his mortgage, he takes advantage of a parking lot MMA fight to earn a quick stack of cash. Even though he gets suspended from his teaching position, it opens the door for another opportunity to return to the sport that earned him a living earlier in his adult life. In the larger battle with his brother, their fight leaves an opening for him to break through Tommy’s tough emotional exterior and reestablish their brotherly love.

  

Tommy’s character is a bit more complex. Where Brendan’s fight for his family is simple and direct, Tommy’s fight for redemption is much more complicated and released in small pieces throughout the story. When he returns home to Pittsburgh, he feels like there is no one he can count on but still finds himself spending time with his father. Though he somewhat accepts Paddy as his trainer, he constantly resists letting him deeper into his heart. Tommy maintains a strong focus on his one goal of winning the tournament while trying to tune out all of the talk, including tales of his heroism followed by reports of his abandonment of his military service. Even with the impending incarceration for going awol, he stays focused on the fights and uses his intensity to completely overpower every opponent. When he goes up against his brother, it takes a moment of submission to get him to finally let the guard down.

With a series of matches that ultimately lead to the predictable matchup between the two brothers, this film actually delivers somewhat of a surprise ending, with the outcome unclear between whether Tommy wins and is able to send the winnings to the military widow or if Brendan rises as the underdog and wins the money for his family. This is an excellent film regardless of whether you are a fan of MMA or not.

Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5

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