Direction: Gavin O’Connor
Actors: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton
It’s rare to see one very good film these days, so when two are released in the same week it’s almost miraculous. This brutal but mesmerising mixed-martial-arts drama revolves around two estranged brothers who through dogged determination wind up pitted against each other in a high-stakes tournament.
In one corner is a brooding ex-Marine (British actor Hardy channelling the young Marlon Brando) who has drifted back home after 14 years. In the other is a physics teacher and family man (Australian beefcake Edgerton) who must win the $5 million purse to pay his mortgages.
As they square off for the championship, the siblings have to contend with their recovering alcoholic father (Nick Nolte in a late-career defining performance). Shorn of sentiment, the turbulent family dynamics have a startling impact.
Predominantly filmed in close-ups (courtesy cinematographer Masanobu Takayamagi), the film draws us into the bruising physical and psychological ordeal of the two underdog contestants.
Needless to emphasise, the climactic bouts are brilliantly realised by director O’Connor (Pride and Glory). The editing patterns and background music selections, including snatches of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ are as arresting as they can get. On the downside, the presence of flag-waving American navy personnel in the arena is a distraction. And the audio recording of Moby Dick to which the father regularly listens serves no apparent purpose.
All in all, Warrior packs quite a powerful punch.