Warrior has as much going for it as any film can possibly muster. There’s family conflict, there’s conflict with society, and even conflict in the manner of international warfare. Warrior unrolls in a completely realistic manner that suggests working class American dreams.

Only the dream has been subverted by economics, alcohol and combat. Nick Nolte plays the ex-boxer Dad, proud of his 1000 days of sobriety, and Tom Hardy stars as his scarred son just returned from overseas. Joel Edgerton shares screen time as Hardy’s brother, a teacher by trade but a fighter at heart. While this is Hardy’s film the acting rates across the board as brilliant from all the players. Hardy starred in a film from the UK called Bronson that’s available on disc but was never released domestically. Hardy absolutely defines tour de force acting in Bronson and he’s not just on his game for Warrior, Hardy is absolutely cra cra. Some of Hardy’s early films include Star Trek: Nemesis and RocknRolla. Hardy easily stole scenes in Inception (Eames) but it’s Warrior that will propel him to the A-list.

Hardy shows up at Nolte’s door and announces his intention to train for mixed martial arts competition. Hardy wants Nolte to help train him. Warrior’s main fulcrum is that nobody in the family is on speaking terms. The sons each hate their father for different reasons. As emotionally draining as Hardy plays his character, it’s the supporting role played by Nolte that devastates the viewer.

By the time Hardy has entered the big competition his brother, Edgerton has turned to fighting to earn money because his teacher’s salary isn’t enough to stall foreclosure. Warrior becomes an odd duck family film despite its testosterone levels due to the fact that the film revolves around how families come together in times of crisis. Warrior is also a crowd pleaser to the ultimate degree. All of the fight scenes are stunningly choreographed.

Despite many contrived circumstances by the time we get to the conclusion both brothers are facing off each other for the world championship in a mixed martial arts contest. Director and co-writer Gavin O’Connor makes this story work giving the audience a cathartic ending even while satisfying their desire for bruises, pain and redemption. Warrior opens this weekend.

— Michael Bergeron