Take the underdog fantasy of Rocky and multiply it by two, add an even more dysfunctional family than the one in The Fighter, throw in Mixed Martial Arts and you have the formula for rousing fight drama Warrior.
Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton play bitterly estranged brothers Tommy and Brendan, whose paths converge when they both enter a $5million winner-takes-all MMA tournament. Tommy is a troubled ex-Marine and one-time teenage wrestling champ. Brendan is a former MMA fighter turned high school physics teacher and responsible family man. Both bear emotional scars from childhood, when their alcoholic abusive father (Nick Nolte) split the family apart. And both are rank outsiders when, unbeknown to each other, they sign up for the MMA contest, Brendan out of financial desperation, Tommy for murkier personal reasons. They have completely different fighting styles – volatile Tommy is brutally direct, Brendan cannily reactive – but both upset the odds as they embark on surprise winning streaks.
With a plot that’s as contrived as a pro-wrestling bout, it’s blatantly obvious where Warrior is going. But thanks to the manipulative skill of director Gavin O’Connor, and Hardy and Edgerton’s ferociously committed performances (solidly supported by Nolte as the forgiveness-seeking father), it’s easy to suspend disbelief and be won over. By the end, if the bruising fight scenes haven’t pummelled you into submission, then the full-blooded melodrama will surely leave you out for the count.
On general release from 23rd September.