2011. 140 minutes. Rated PG-13

This film follows others in a long line from a genre that isn’t always so warmly welcomed, but once in a while–a very long while–captures the hearts of movie goers, fight fans, and people who don’t wanna romanticize life like a fairy tale. Many films try. Few succeed. This one succeeded. I couldn’t choose my favorite quote, so here’s two:

Quote: So you found God, huh? That’s awesome. See, Mom kept calling out for him but he wasn’t around. I guess Jesus was down at the mill forgiving all the drunks. Who knew?

2nd Quote: “Is that one of the 12 steps? Or does a guy like you get 24???”

Warrior – Lionsgate

Warrior draws from its predecessors and shares with us its influences. It takes many good ideas, and leaves the bad ones alone. It doesn’t rip anything off per se, but sets out with a similar pursuit and pays homage. In certain instances it comes up short, but in others it topples the expectations.

Our story is set in the city of Pittsburgh, where a young man returns home a broken veteran, haunted by the death of his mother and demons that he’s carried with him for a lifetime. Tom Hardy masterfully produces the character of Tommy Conlon. We’ve seen him with many fantastic roles, notably Bronson, Inception, The Drop, The Dark Knight Rises,  and The Revenant (for which he was nominated)  his star continues to rise.

Conlon locates another veteran, this one much older and with demons of his own weighing him down. This guy tries to brag 1000 days sober and acts as though he has earned a certain level of respect from the younger man, but also hangs his head with a humbled shame, knowing that he has too many wrongs to ever be able to make a right again.

This man is Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte) and he is Tommy’s estranged father. We are given every angle of what proves to be a story that stinks of realism, about a family ripped to shreds, by alcoholism, violence, death, and ties long broken. Not for nothing, but Nolte CRUSHES it and the academy gave him the nod for Best Supporting Actor. He’s great. So glad that Gary Busey didn’t land this role.

We witness the reunion of these two men (completely devoid of emotion, mind you), a reunion solely based on the importance and drive behind training for an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) competition, bringing together some of the truest hard fought warriors the sport has to offer. It’s not just a MMA competition, however, but one that carries with it the largest purse ever offered to a fighter outside of a boxing ring.

We get to see another road that leads toward this competition from a different man too. This man with his own wants and desires, and with his own need for success in the sport. Brendan (Joel Edgerton) is what we could call a mild-mannered school teacher, who has long since finished his days of arduous combat competition, and traded them in for a briefcase, a lovely wife (Jennifer Morrison), some kids, and the two-story in suburbia. When news of small time fights to earn extra money land him on a suspension from his school, he returns to his old life to face the odds stacked up against him, in an effort to provide for his family.

So what, right? Who cares? The two fighters… are brothers.


This movie is a gripping story about love, loss, the life of battle-tested warriors and the world that exists for them. It focuses on elements we’ve seen in the films mentioned above, and brings in the real lives of UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships) fighters, if only in spirit. War heroes, olympians, high school teachers… there is no stereotype for a fighter… they are our parents, our children, our spouses, and siblings. They deserve a movie, and Gavin O’Connor, the award-winning director of Miracle brought them one with Warrior.

THE LIST: Influences worth mentioning. 

  1. The Fighter

Now, no doubt one would think that they rushed to make Warrior when The Fighter was in the beginning stages of it’s own production. That happens a lot. Most times, they are in theaters at the same time, just in a scramble to try and build off of capital and make some cash. Very rarely, however, is the copy cat better than the film it’s following.

This friends… is one of those cases. The Fighter was highly touted and people were extremely excited about it, especially in Massachusetts. Now call it what you will, I know everyone was all “blown away” by Christian Bale, and you know what? That’s fine. Fine by me. I’ll tell you what though… I grew up two miles from where that movie was set and filmed. It was my home, and while everyone else in my hometown, and in the city of Lowell “TOTALLY LOVED THAT MOVIE, KHED” I did not. It was OK at best, and the accents sucked. Period.

This film, on the other hand, doesn’t overdo it on darkness. We are brought into the world of this family, long after shit has hit the fan, long after the relationships have been broken, and new lives have begun. There is no debating it, they took some of these principal ideas from The Fighter. Here is the thing, though: this movie had less known actors and they showed up to ACT. The proof is in the pudding. They just tried harder and it shows. The acting is superb and in no way plastic, like Mark “say hi to your mother for me” Walhberg’s barely conscious character in The Fighter.

They were trying to capture some sort of essence of Rocky Balboa in The Fighter: the last ditch effort from a broken down underdog with a jaded past. No disrespect to Mickey Ward, but that’s a totally different story, and I think trying to make it Rocky was a BIG mistake.

  1. Rocky

Rocky is arguably the greatest underdog story ever told, the winner of a Best Picture Oscar and the lead-off to what would become the most popular sports film franchise in history. Rocky Balboa is fairly close to being my favorite fictional character ever, so you’ll forgive the sentiment. Rocky is David in a world full of Goliaths. He rises to the occasion, shocks the world, gets the girl, and defies the odds. You name it, Rocky did it. It’s a great story, and one worth emulating. Now, fast-forward 36 years later. Warrior is set in a world that speaks to its own generation: the world of MMA.

They bring you into these characters. You will care. You will see the rage and anger that exists between these two brothers and it will hurt you. You will see them work and toil for what they are after, and it will remind you of Rocky Balboa running up those stairs. As well it should. It succeeds because it is being made in the correct era, when MMA has more momentum then ever before. It’s not the first to do this either, even though it may be the best.

  1. Red Belt

The first really great mixed martial arts movie came out a few years earlier. Red Belt tells the story of a true mixed martial artist who ends up working in the film industry, racking up debt and needing to put his honor on hold in an effort to provide for his family (and a bunch of other cutesy hokey crap).

Don’t get me wrong, I like that movie, but damn, I just finished talking about Rocky, so… what do you want me to say, it is what is. Now, something this movie had going for it, was that David Mamet was at the helm. He rules and has directed fantastic pieces of acting in his career, much of it on the stage. That’s neither here nor there, however. This is one of his lesser known works, but still an important film for spreading the philosophy and honor associated with the idea of MMA competition and training. The makers of Warrior certainly saw this film and borrowed a few important ideas, namely, having real pro fighters involved in the filming, having small roles, and certainly being involved in the fight choreography.

(end of THE LIST)

Rashad Evans, Stephan Bonner, Nate Marquardt, and Anthony Johnson, are some of the best fighters on the whole damn planet, and they either played themselves or fighters in this film, and it went a long way, even for non-fans that couldn’t spot them. What does any of this have to do with Warrior you are asking yourself, though, right? Welllllllllllllllll…

Once upon a time combatants would attack one another for money and the roar of the crowd. They were warriors, gladiators destined for glory or defeat. That was in ancient times, but that love for competition lives on. In Las Vegas and arenas all over the world these days, the UFC, and Bellator competitions are the modern equivalent of gladiatorial combat in amphitheaters. These organizations have broken into the mainstream of American sports, wielding deals with The Paramount Network, Fox, and Showtime. They are the real deal. Certain friends of mine will be mad when they hear what I’m about to say, but too bad, my blog.


Boxing is DEAD. It’s like watching golf, I’m sorry. I know the sport lives, and I know those fighters are true athletes, but seriously… Have you seen THE UFC? Once banned across these United States, this is now a mainstream sport, and IMHO the most exciting on earth. Sanctioned almost everywhere and a short 17 years after they were close to bankruptcy, they are a billion dollar empire. Boxing had a good run, over 100 years. Those fighters are still making more bank than MMA fighters, but it won’t be like that forever.

MMA is our boxing. This movie is about combat cage fighting and the mixing of styles and disciplines. Very much like Rocky and The Fighter, this movie is about family, brokenness, and change a lot more than it is about fighting. So fine.

This movie, while showcasing excellent acting, writing, and directing, draws focus to a sport that’s taking over the world, and one that was once thought to be animal and barbaric. Times are changing. It’s fight night.

Check this flick out, and if you like it…. GO WATCH SOME MMA!

Author: Peter

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