To date, I have seen and posted a review on ten films I have seen on Netflix. I’ve seen a wide variety of films, funny, san animated and ridiculous. With such a variety of films under my belt I thought it would be impossible to pick a best but this week I saw the best film I have reviewed for This Week on Netflix so far. The film is called Warrior and as long as you can handle some violent MMA fighting, it is a must see.
Now, this comment may piss off Never Back Down fans but, there really aren’t many well known, well done MMA films. Boxing films are a different story. We have the Fighter, Cinderella Man, Rocky and countless others on the list of great boxing films but well done MMA films are few and far between. While Warrior is about MMA fighting and features many different fight scenes, there is so much more to the film than just fighting. The story starts when Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy) returns to his home town after a long hiatus. Showing up at his father’s house without warning, Tommy finds that the family he left a long time ago has changed. The film tells the back-story of the Conlon family in a very interesting manner, slowly letting the audience put their past together while the story plays out. The family consists of three main players, Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte), the family’s previously alcoholic, abusive father who has changed his ways and enters the film nearing his one thousandth day sober. Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton), the family’s eldest brother is a High School teacher living with his wife, Tess Conlon (Jennifer Morrison), and his two daughters. The final member of the family is youngest brother Tommy Conlon, a lost ex-marine trying to make his way in the world.
The plot of the story isn’t overly complicated. Tommy returns home after leaving with his mother, who passed away after she left Paddy. Tommy, a former High School wrestling star, asks his father to resume training him but this time for the MMA cage rather than the wrestling ring. After a video of Tommy knocking out one of the best fighters in the world is leaked onto the internet, he is accepted to the largest MMA tournament called Sparta. Without each brother realizing it, Brendan also enters himself in Sparta. After being screwed over financially by a misguided investment, Brendan begins MMA fighting on the side for extra cash. When he shows up to work beaten and bloodied, his boss finds out what he has been doing and suspends him without pay. With time on his hands, Brendan decides to train for Sparta in the hopes of winning to save his home and family. The first half of the film focuses on the brothers’ training while the second half features the two underdogs fighting their way through the MMA champions in the Sparta tournament.
There was no part of this film that was lacking in any way. The fights, especially those that take place during Sparta, are intense, brutally entertaining and oddly emotional. I am not the kind of guy that gets invested enough in anything to yell at the television screen but at times during Sparta, especially during a fight between world champion Koba and Brendan, I was on my feet cheering. Beyond well done, emotional fight scenes, the film is full of outstanding acting. Featuring a broken family, anytime Brendan, Paddy or Tommy converse is a heartbreaking scene. A notable scene for both Brendan and Tommy is when they finally see one another at Sparta, conversing for the first time in years. While Brendan tries to understand why Tommy won’t forgive him, Tommy bullishly reiterates his anger. Tom Hardy’s best acting performances in the film are when his character is in the ring. Outside of the ring, Tommy is a quiet, angry man but inside the cage we get to see who Tommy really is. It was amazing to see Tom Hardy give a character such depth using only intensity and body language.
While both Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton give great performances, Nick Nolte steals the show. Prior to this film, I was not much of a Nick Nolte fan. I hadn’t seen him in anything that really wowed me, my favorite performance of his coming from Tropic Thunder. I was absolutely blown away by Nick Nolte in Warrior. Playing a recovering alcoholic desperately trying to reconnect with the family he alienated, Nolte brought tears to my eyes in multiple scenes. As hard as the man tries, his sons cannot get past his past actions. Brendan will not allow Paddy to see his grandchildren, only communicating with him through phone calls or the mail and Tommy no longer has any respect for his father. Tommy sees his father as a trainer, beyond that Tommy is terrible to his father, taking every opportunity to give an off-hand, soul crushing insult. I have never felt for a character as much as I did for Paddy Conlon and never expected Nick Nolte to make me tear up once, let alone three times in one film. Earning him a nomination, and what I think should have been a win, for the 2012 Best Supporting Actor Oscar, this film easily features Nolte at the top of his game.
I cannot reiterate enough how outstanding this film is. When I heard about the film, I was doubtful that I would even enjoy it but now I can say it is one of the best films I have seen in a long time. If you can judge a film but how much I talk about it, this post is already longer than most that I write and I could keep talking about this film for pages. I haven’t even touched on the film’s beautiful use of Moby Dick and Beethoven references. I think I’ll save those for another post. I am going to give this film a very rare 10 out of 10 and recommend it to everybody and anybody that has read this post and has any modicum of interest in the film.