If a trailer came out today for a movie starring Tom Hardy, that alone would be enough to pull in audiences.
Just look at what the horrid “Venom” grossed.
Add in Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Frank Grillo and Jennifer Morrison to a film that centers on UFC and its success seems certain.
In 2011, nobody cared.
“Warrior” grossed about $13 million domestically and $23 million worldwide against a $25 million production budget, according to Box Office Mojo.
Hardy wasn’t the star he is today and Edgerton’s biggest role before “Warrior” was as a young uncle Owen Lars in the “Star Wars” prequels.
The world missed out on one of the greatest sports movies of all time.
Under the great direction of Gavin O’Connor, “Warrior” tells the story of two estranged brothers who reunite in the octagon.
Tom Hardy is one of the best actors working today, but in 2011 he was no more than the cool guy from “Inception.”
In “Warrior,” he showed what audiences would see for the next decade.
Hardy, who plays Tommy Conlon, stays composed and channels his rage into the right moments. He doesn’t need to tell the audience how he feels. Hardy shows it on his face.
Hollywood realized that as in three of his roles over the next six years (2012’s “The Dark Knights Rises,” 2015’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” and 2017’s “Dunkirk”), Hardy had something covering his mouth for at least some, if not all, of the film. He accomplishes so much with his eyes. The audience sees his pain as he realistically tries to suppress his emotions.
He also shines with his physicality and when he unleashes his rage it’s terrifying.
Rookie of the Year
Frank Grillo takes his career to another level after this film as he joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe and becomes the star of the “Purge” franchise. However, the man he trains in “Warrior,” Joel Edgerton, balances much more.
Edgerton, who plays Tommy’s brother Brendan Conlon, serves as the film’s typical sports movie protagonist. He needs to fight or he’ll lose his house. He works as a high school science teacher, and is the underdog of the Sparta tournament who overcomes the odds. That’s enough to make for a good sports film.
Edgerton balances that storyline with his complicated relationship with his brother and father. He proves the heart of the film, relatable and vital to the emotional payoff.
Director Gavin O’Connor knows how to make a sports film — he directed 2004’s “Miracle.” He built off that experience to create an Oscar-nominated film. He gets incredible performances out of his actors and perfectly balances two stories.
He could have covered just Brendan’s rise from a school teacher to the octagon and that would have been a good sports movie. However, the drama among Brendan, Tommy and their father elevates this film to greatness.
Kevin Dunn has some solid scenes as the principal. Jennifer Morrison serves as a strong wife to Edgerton’s character. Even announcer Bryan Callen, who plays himself, at one point pulls out a goldfish and hilariously compares it to a fighter.
But some sixth men might as well be starters. Nick Nolte is the Kevin McHale, Manu Ginóbili or Lou Williams of this film.
He earns this honor with his role as Paddy Conlon, Tommy and Brendan’s father.
Nolte returns to form, earning the film’s only Oscar nomination and the third of his career (1991’s “The Prince of Tides” and 1997’s “Affliction”).
It’s also his last great performance, unless there’s something on the horizon.
Nolte’s character searches for redemption as he tries to reconnect with his sons. His performance resonates as he makes the audience believe he is their father. Before the events of the film, Nolte’s character wasn’t a good parent. At the movie’s start, he cleaned himself up, but knows he didn’t do right by his sons. He seeks forgiveness and a family unit, but he struggles to get through to Tommy and Brendan. The tremble in his voice as he searches for the answers strikes a chord.
It culminates in a powerful scene after Tommy tells him off, saying he liked him better as a drunk. Nolte’s character decides to go back to his room and drink while listening to “Moby Dick.” He starts yelling at Ahab and crying, but he’s really yelling at himself.
“Warrior” might have benefited from a flashback scene of Nolte with his two sons so the audience can see what he was like instead of hearing what he did to them.
Also, these brothers come out of nowhere to become two of the best MMA fighters in the world. It has to get to that point for the movie to work so I can give it a pass.
Finally, I would never step foot in any sort of octagon or ring and have the utmost respect for those who do. However, “Warrior” makes it seem like the UFC tournament took place over a few days. In my limited knowledge, I know fighters need more time than that before they jump back into a major fight.
One shining moment
The Brendan Conlon-Koba fight gives the film its triumphant sports movie moment and Nolte’s breakdown crushes the audience. But the brothers fighting for the title beautifully concludes the film. It’s everything “Warrior” built toward.
Tommy and Brendan fight out their problems. They release their emotions and move toward solving their estrangement by the bout’s end. Brendan even shares a quick moment with his father and communicates non-verbally that it’s time to work this out and be together again.
The National’s “About Today” plays over the final round and gives the film the proper sendoff. The end doesn’t tie up neatly with a bow, but it does give the audience realistic closure.