Warrior has a plot that is at once ingenious and absurd - two brothers with serious emotional baggage end up competing against each other for the top title in the world's biggest winner-take-all Mixed Marshall Arts championship. It's credit to director Gavin O'Connor then, who does not shy away from the fairy tale incredulity of his story, but rather films it with such grit and conviction that the road to the unlikely climax it is not only gripping, but contextually convincing.
It helps that he has three skilled and hungry actors who turn in three staggering performances. From the gritty, heavy family drama to the intense, epic fight scenes (Mixed Marshall Arts = kickboxing + wrestling + anything goes = awesome), they blend together something that shouldn't work, but sucks you in and then soars to an intense, potent climax that is hard to forget.
Nick Nolte is phenomenal as an abusive, drunk, nightmare of a father turned broken, feeble man trying to make amends. He gives a slow, unshowy performance that is so rawly vulnerable and filled with inescapable regret that it often truly hurts to watch. A searing verbal lashing from Tom Hardy's Tommy leads to Nolte's explosive, knockout scene that pushes him right into the Best Supporting Actor race.
It's impossible to pick a winner between Tom Hardy's Tommy & Joel Edgerton's Brendan, both difficult, intriguing characters with a vivid, traumatic past. Edgerton brings a strikingly hard edge to his sensible and adored father / husband / teacher, while Tom Hardy is all blazing intensity with his heart on his sleeve as deeply angry, deeply bruised Tommy.
A carefully executed, original film with a soaring climax. It sucks you in and knocks you out.
And it all ends beautifully with The National.