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An ex-Marine haunted by a tragic past, Tommy Riordan returns to his hometown of Pittsburgh and enlists his father, a recovered alcoholic and his former coach, to train him for a mixed martial arts tournament awarding the biggest purse in the history of the sport. As Tommy blazes a violent path towards the title prize, his brother, Brendan, a former MMA fighter unable to make ends meet as a public school teacher, returns to the amateur ring to provide for his family. Even though years have passed, recriminations and past betrayals keep Brendan bitterly estranged from both Tommy and his father. But when Brendan's unlikely rise as an underdog sets him on a collision course with Tommy, the two brothers must finally confront the forces that tore them apart, all the while waging the most intense, winner-takes-all battle of their lives.
For more about Warrior and the Warrior Blu-ray release, see Warrior Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on December 16, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Morrison, Kevin Dunn, Gavin O'Connor
Director: Gavin O'Connor
» See full cast & crew
Warrior Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, December 16, 2011
Stop me if you've seen this one before: a dysfunctional Irish-American family with two brothers tries to overcome their internecine battles to take on the world of professional fighting. If you trade out a harried mother for a father and switch the world of boxing to that of Mixed Martial Arts, you have the gist of why Warrior may remind you more than a little bit of The Fighter. With Nick Nolte a contender (no pun intended) for a Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination in Warrior, one only has to wonder whether he, like Melissa Leo when she won for The Fighter, will drop the F-bomb should he take home the trophy. Despite the surface similarities, the two films are vastly different in content and tone, and it's to Warrior's credit that despite what some may feel is riffing on a fairly familiar (and filmically recent) theme, the film is an emotional powerhouse with some very smart writing that manages to sum up a lifetime of familial dysfunction in a line or two. Warrior's ménage a trois deals with father Paddy Conlon (Nolte) and his two estranged sons, ex-Marine Tommy (Tom Hardy), who has taken his mother's maiden name of Riordan for reasons which are revealed later in the film, and physics teacher Brendan (Joel Edgerton). In the blistering first scene between Tommy and Paddy which starts off the film, years of dysfunction come tumbling out in just a line or two, with attendant furtive glances. Paddy is a recovering alcoholic and it's revealed that his ex-wife left with Tommy years ago and died in Tacoma several years previously while Tommy joined the Marines. It eventually becomes clear that Brendan didn't even wait for his Mother to take off, and in fact had eloped with his soon to be wife Tess (Jennifer Morrison) in order to get out from the violent, misshapen world his father's drinking had visited on the family. Tommy's reentry into Paddy's life serves as the genesis for an emotionally devastating look at how wounded souls can overcome their scars to forge new understandings that, if not outright love, at least have the semblance of some sort of forgiving grace.
As powerful as Warrior undoubtedly is, it must be admitted up front that there are a number of hackneyed elements in the film, not the least of which is the fact that the three main characters all have their private demons. Paddy is obviously dealing with years of a drinking problem, which led him to some horrifying violence he brought to his family. Tommy is dealing with the rage engendered by his father's abuse and the guilt he feels over having been so helpless as his Mother became increasingly ill and died, a helplessness which he hasn't been able to salve with any intimations of faith. Brendan seems to be the odd man out, as it were, for at least for the first part of the film, it's actually external forces, including an incipient foreclosure, which are breathing down his neck, but as the film progresses, it's shown that he, too, was just as victimized by the dissolving family unit as Tommy was.
The film also makes what might have been a disastrous misstep by having both brothers sign up for the same Mixed Martial Arts Tournament (for completely different reasons), which anyone with half a brain (if even that much) knows means they're both going to end up in the cage battling each other. But against rather amazing odds, Warrior manages to overcome its foundational issues to deliver some socko (sorry, couldn't resist) material, most of which must be attributed to the incredibly succinct, well co-written by the film's direct Gavin O'Connor, along with Chris Dorfman and Anthony Tambakis. When Tommy sums up his father's long history of abuse and lack of a current girlfriend with the visceral, "It must be hard to find a woman who can take a punch," it's incredibly insightful shorthand, something the scenarists manage to repeat throughout the film on several occasions.
Nolte has obviously had his own personal demons to confront, as that infamous mug shot a few years ago made clear. What's also clear from Warrior is that he is still an actor of unique power and muscularity (in an emotional sense), and he brings incredible gravitas to a role that needs a daunting combination of regret, defiance, steeliness and vulnerability. Both Hardy and Edgerton are also extremely good in vastly different roles, and the fight sequences here are among the most viscerally exciting in recent memory. If the film opts for a bit of a feel good ending, that is part and parcel of the hackneyed structure of this genre to begin with. What's so amazing about Warrior is that even within that hackneyed feeling, there's also a rush of saving grace.
Warrior Blu-ray, Video Quality
Warrior is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.40:1. This is a very nice looking high definition presentation despite a sort of proto-indie feel that keeps things filtered toward the green side of the spectrum in several of the outdoor shots as well as those inside Paddy's home. Flesh tones are very well saturated and accurate, and the film sports considerable sharpness and clarity. Some of the exterior nighttime shots suffer from overabundant grain, which may bother some, but overall the transfer is very filmic looking, with a natural texture and appearance. Contrast is excellent and black levels are solid throughout the film.
Warrior Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Warrior is presented with three different sound mixes, and it's somewhat instructive to repeat what in my experience is the first ever explanatory text included on the Audio menu of this Lionsgate release:
Lionsgate and the filmmakers are proud to offer you three separate audio options on this "Warrior" Blu-ray disc. These are intended to make the highest quality audio experience available to the home viewer, depending on your listening environment.
English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio – the best choice for properly aligned 5.1 surround home theater systems. This represents the original theatrical experience as the filmmakers intended.
English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio – this option was mixed for those who specifically have a discrete four-channel surround 7.1 home theater set up. It is specifically created to provide a more enveloping and immersive surround experience.
English 2.0 Dolby Digital – created for systems with only two speakers or for a Dolby Pro-Logic decoding system if available.
Warrior's two multichannel tracks are incredible affairs which are able to provide outstanding immersion and really thrilling dynamic range. The differences between the 5.1 and 7.1 mixes are subtle but noticeable, especially in such immersive moments as a flashback to Iraq, where Tommy did his tour of duty, and later the fabulous fight sequence which crowns the film. The sound mixing here is really state of the art, with raucous crowd sounds spilling through the surrounds even as individual smacks and grunts from the fighters are perfectly and discretely placed throughout the soundfield. The film also has its share of quieter dialogue scenes, and these also sport excellent fidelity and clarity.
Warrior Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Warrior Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
My prediction is you're going to see Nolte on the Best Supporting Actor Oscar roster in a couple of months, and my hunch is he may very well take home the statuette for this beautifully nuanced performance. Though Warrior is an emotional powerhouse, it's also contrived and very familiar, and not just because of the quite recent The Fighter, which it resembles in at least some surface elements. But the three leads here are all worthy of praise, and the message of forgiveness and redemption is certainly a worthy one. This Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic, and comes with some excellent supplemental materials, so this release is Highly recommended.
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Warrior Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Warrior Blu-ray - November 1, 2011
Next month, Lionsgate Home Entertainment will bring Warrior to Blu-ray. Director Gavin O'Connor's brutal sports drama stars Tom Hardy (Bronson) and Joel Edgerton (Animal Kingdom) as two brothers who find themselves competing against each other in a winner-take-all ...
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