FILM REVIEW: Warrior (12A)

Two brothers go to war against each other in Gavin O’Connor’s brutal story of redemption and self-loathing.

Bone-crunching skirmishes between the characters and their buff opponents become a vibrant backdrop to the potential reconciliation of the estranged siblings, one battling for his country, the other for his family.

Warrior puts these two male archetypes - the valiant soldier and the selfless father - in the fighting ring and witnesses the emotional fallout as the protagonists deal with their tortured pasts in the present day.

We are in familiar territory here - David O Russell’s Oscar-winning drama The Fighter performed many of the same jabs earlier this year.

Marine Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy) arrives home unexpectedly after 14 years of service, surprising his father Paddy (Nick Nolte), who has turned to religion to help him beat the bottle.

“You found God, Dad, that’s awesome. Mum was always calling for Him but I guess He wasn’t around,” sneers Tommy, who single-handedly nursed his mother through cancer before enlisting.

Tommy asks his old man to train him for Sparta, a televised mixed martial arts fighting competition with the biggest purse in the sport’s history.

Paddy agrees, desperate to rebuild bridges.

However, the former Marine isn’t interested in playing happy families and Tommy chooses to fight under his mother’s maiden name of Riordan to conceal the connection.

Meanwhile, Paddy’s other son, Brendan (Joel Edgerton), is struggling to make ends meet as a schoolteacher.

The bank is threatening to take away his home so Brendan secretly fights in the backrooms of bars for money behind the back of his wife Tess (Jennifer Morrison).

Once the school learns of Brendan’s extra-curricular activities, the headmaster suspends him and the teacher’s entire future rests on winning Sparta, putting him on a collision course with his hulking sibling.

Warrior talks tough and flexes its muscles impressively in the bruising fight sequences but the script punches well below its class.

Characterisation is featherweight and Hardy and Edgerton, who have both bulked up for the roles, aren’t given the material to deliver knockout performances.

Nolte bares his soul in his few scenes and Morrison is similarly short-changed.

There is a clear narrative bias towards one of the brothers, making the bone-crunching histrionics of the final bouts a foregone conclusion before anyone has stepped into the ring.

Consequently, there’s no dramatic tension and when screenwriters O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis and Cliff Dorfman do orchestrate one big reveal, it turns out to be completely redundant, having no impact whatsoever on the fates of the central players.

The second reveal, that Tommy and Brendan are brothers, provides unintentional hilarity when the media unearths the truth at a critical juncture.

Running time is excessive - the four editors should have thrown in the towel at least 20 minutes earlier.

By Damon Smith

:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 6/10

Released: September 23 (UK & Ireland), 139 mins