September 16, 2011
By Peter Zelasko

By Peter Zelasko

Warrior is the story of an estranged family in need of forgiveness and healing and seeks it through a battle of wills inside and out of the ring.

Nick Nolte plays Paddy Conlon in a keen characterization of a Vietnam vet and boxer-turned-steel mill worker whose alcoholism tears his family apart.

Paddy sobered up, only to find that he had destroyed everything good around him. His wife has run off, taking his favorite son Tommy (an angsty Tom Hardy). His oldest son Brendan (Joel Edgerton) stays with his father for the love of his now wife, Tess (Jennifer Morrison), though he refuses to forgive or speak to his father for ripping his family apart.

In the opening scene Paddy’s youngest son Tommy shows up drunk on his father’s doorstep after a questionable departure from the Marines. Tommy wants to use his father as a trainer while refusing to speak about his murky past and exit from the military, nor acknowledging any existence of their relationship as father and son.

The reappearance of his youngest son renews Paddy's hopes for getting his family back together. He wants to renew his relationship with both of his sons, but is repeatedly rejected by both. Sober for over 1,000 days, Paddy inevitably falls off the wagon. The viewer never finds out if and how he heals his relationships with either of his sons.

Younger brother Tommy is selfish, narrow, loves little and fears much, even though he comes off as a tough-guy ex-marine.

Older brother Brendan falls constantly for his own pride, making decisions rooted in fear. Brendan did choose to stay with his father, but it was to hold onto the one real relationship he had in his life. He marries his high school sweetheart, Tess, and tries to make ends meet teaching high school physics. Upside down on his mortgage, he decides on his own initiative to start fighting for extra money to stay afloat. His principle finds out and suspends him, and when his wife discovers the truth, he ignores her honest fears for his safety and decides on his own to keep training and fighting. In his desperation he seeks the fights as a path to saving his family from financial problems, while ignoring the truly courageous act of telling the truth and working with his wife to find a solution.

The film eventually focuses on the main event—in which the fight scenes are explicitly believable. Both brothers end up battling their way into the final round of a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) prize fight called “Sparta” where they inevitably face off against each other for a $5 million purse. For the last half of the film the stakes are high inside and outside of the ring. If you are not paying attention you can miss the change in both brothers in their final battle. The director finally finds an opportunity for mercy, and some hope for forgiveness is finally revealed. But don't expect it all to be wrapped up in a nice package.

Director and co-writer Gavin O'Connor has created an interesting example of the dichotomies of pain: the physical and the mental, the pain caused by others and the self-inflicted. The three Conlon men constantly remind the viewer that life will always be unjust and unfair when we are the only reference point. Selfishness can compound spiritual and physical pain and leave us weak as individuals. That's the most interesting aspect of “Warrior,” that despite our failures and our ability to constantly fall, even to the most extreme limits as these three men show, there is still hope for redemption—to find freedom from the physical and spiritual wounds of life through forgiveness. Freedom after all is measured by love and not by choice.

Sequences of intense mixed martial arts fighting, crude and obscene language, profanity, mild innuendo, and a portrayal of drunkenness give it a PG-13 rating. The film is not suitable for children.

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