I’ve seen Warrior before, hell, we all have. This movie, about underdogs who have to fight their way back to financial freedom and emotional acceptance has been told so many times it’s gone beyond familiar. Warrior is about two brothers, estranged because of their alcoholic father (Nick Nolte). Tommy (Tom Hardy) chose to go with his mother when she ran out on Nolte and Brendan (Joel Edgerton) stayed with Pop. Now, Tommy has returned after 14 years and asked his father (recovering from alcoholism) to train him to be a MMA fighter but nothing else. He is an angry young man. Brendan is a family man now with small children and a job teaching physics and a mortgage he suddenly can’t afford, so it’s time to get back in the fight game, something he dabbled in earlier. Please guess at the following questions; will the father go back to drinking at some point? Will the two end up fighting each other in one final big fight? Will the wife, who swore she’d never watch him fight again, turn up at that big fight? Will there be a training montage? There’s almost nothing about Warrior that I haven’t seen before, except for one thing, I’ve never seen a character say “I love you” to another and mean it while he’s chocking him just seconds after kicking that character in the face. That’s a new one.
But the familiarity with every single ounce of the plot is such a good familiarity it feels less like a cliche and more like a well-worn t-shirt. Yes, it’s silly and predictable but it’s been silly and predictable since the beginning of cinema and it still seems pretty durable. This reminded me of another bloated, sub-plot ridden predictable movie that I also enjoyed; Stomp the Yard. Every character in both films has a past that will suddenly become germane to the rest of the plot and that plot will resolve old wounds. Both movies take their subject deathly seriously (in STY’s case, step dancing. In Warrior’s case, punching people after they’re already on the ground) and both are satisfying. It also made me think of 2010’s The Fighter mainly because they’re very much the same but one was an awards season darling and the other can barely sniff an Oscar (there was some buzz for Nolte’s performance, which is good, but that seems to have fizzled). Release date is everything.