Warrior (2011)

warriorAt the end of the day when the dust settles, “Warrior” is going to be called a sports film. But deep down it’s a family film. It’s a man film about the male dynamic and the utterly fragile relationship between brothers that can be easily hampered by bad parenting. Most of all bad parenting by their father. “Warrior” is the big film of the year that will get many comparisons to 2010’s “The Fighter,” but in so many ways, Gavin O’Connor’s film is superior. Because while the previous film explored the all too common dynamic between mothers and sons, “Warrior” explores the father and son dichotomy, the fractured relationship that can blossom from years of alcoholism and disease.

The father and son relationship gets too little coverage in modern culture, and “Warrior” tackles that very dynamic in what is easily one of the finest films of the decade. “Warrior” is not just about men fighting in a ring, it’s about two men fighting for something. It’s two damaged men fighting their own personal demons in the face of their father who spent years pitting them against one another. There’s a seething rage within the faces of Brendan and Tommy, both of whom approach life like they approach a fight. Brendan is a calm and cool headed individual who appreciates life’s fragility, thus his skill is based on tactics and resolve. Tommy is a gigantic ball of unbridled rage and violence as a man who has always run away from conflict and finally stares it down in the ring, thus his skill is centered around pure raw animal force that mows down anyone foolish enough to step in to the ring with him.

Both men approach fighting like they approach their own personal demons as Tommy pretends his life barely existed and was nothing but a alcohol fueled nightmare, while Brendan all too often has to stare down his personal scars and lingers in the ring to soak in his accomplishments. How little they may be. Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton give respectively incredible performances as two men in parallel worlds fighting for a resolution to their pain. They’re anxiously racing the clock to beat their scars in to submission and only one of them promises to make it out unscathed. Tommy is a man still running from his past after a hard life in the military and is haunted by the decisions he’s made. Brendan is a man living for his family who is trying to figure out how to prevent himself and his daughters from going homeless after their bank threatens to foreclose.

Naturally the outlet for the men is retreating to the ring to take down opponents. But as both men realize they have something to fight for, their past rises to the surface and they’re forced to open old wounds once and for all. “Warrior” should have been a box office smash, but sadly it’s relegated to the underdog corner where it stands as a simply excellent and truly remarkable look at a destroyed family whose common link in their mother was taken away all too soon. The conflict between brothers and fathers and sons add to the compelling script creating a world where questions and regrets linger while answers and resolutions are rarely in sight. “Warrior” is a family film and one that deserves every accolade its received since its release. A superb drama, and a remarkable sports film, “Warrior” is teeming with raw talent and is ultimately an incredible exploration of how precious a father and son’s relationship can be in the face of sadness and a harsh world filled with misery.