Warrior is an extraordinarily well acted, gritty movie shot in the world of the sport of MMA fighting, which is basically a bare-knuckle brawl in a fenced in cage, where you fight until your opponent is either knocked out, or “taps out,” which is similar to throwing in the “white towel” in boxing.
The movie tells the story of two brothers, Brendan (Joel Edgerton) and Tommy (Tom Hardy) and their respective relationships with their alcoholic father Paddy (Nick Notle.) At first we are introduced to Brendan, a very popular, extremely likable public school physics teacher. Although he and his wife Tess, played by the beautiful ex-“House” star, Jennifer Morrison, both have full-time jobs and with Brendan moonlighting by fighting in local, non-sanctioned MMA-style tournaments, they are in serious danger of having their modest suburban house foreclosed on. He convinces Tess that fighting in the big MMA “winner-take-all tournament” is the only way they can avoid foreclosure. Tess agrees, but refuses to be involved in raising their child up “in a house where the father gets beaten up for a living.” The prinicpal of Brendan’s school, Kevin Dunn, is sympathetic although very concerned that one of his teachers is coming to teach with cuts and a black eye. But I must say it is a delight to see Mr. Dunn in a satisfying role of the responsible teacher who gets caught up in cheering along with the students for their beloved “Mr. C.” (The last time we saw Kevin Dunn was in his sad role as Shia LaBoeuf’s track suit wearing father in what only amounted to a cameo in “Transformer’s: Dark Of The Moon.’) Also wonderful is Frank Grilllo who becomes Brendan’s trainer, even though Brendan is “on the wrong side of thirty.”)
Back on the other side of town is Brendan’s younger brother Tommy, who is a former Marine, who seems to be carrying some serious anger issues with him upon his return. His character is much less sympathetic, and far more difficult to root for than his brother who is literally fighting to retain possession of his home for his family as we learn in a heartbreaking scene that Brendan has to endure with his banker who lets him know that his house will be foreclosed on in 90 days.
Tommy, the angry ex-Marine has a whole section of Marines who serenade him with the Marine hymn, overtime he comes out for a fight. Tommy, who has the same disdain for his father that Brendan does, goes to Paddy to train him, by telling him that it’s the one thing he was good at.
All three men put in dynamically nuanced performances. Brendan is clearly the most sympathetic and is the one we cheer for. but Tommy wears his anger like a cloak and revels in apparent self-hatred. Nick Nolte gives an astonishing performance as a broken-down ex-fighter and ex-trainer, tortured by the knowledge that he abandoned his wife and two sons, when they needed him most. He is proud of his recent attempt at trying to get clean and is very proud of his 1000 days of sobriety. Mr. Nolte gives a beautiful performance of a man all too painfully aware of his shortcomings, struggling to finally make something of himself, and regain even the smallest measure of self-respect.
In an almost completely male cast, Jennifer Morrison is a vision. She completely embodies the role of the sympathetic wife and mother. During one of the more tender scenes with Brendan she is wearing nothing more than underwear and a tank-top, but there is not the smallest hint of sexual manipulation or titillation. She is  a remarkably beautiful woman, and a wonderfully unpretentious actor. In a film with so many wonderful male performances, Ms. Morrison more than holds her own.
This is an exciting, captivating movie from beginning to its dramatic conclusion. Don’t bother trying to compare it to any other sports movies. This is in a league of its own.

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