Director Gavin O'Connor comes out swinging in this flawed but fiercely moving family drama about two feuding brothers competing in a martial-arts tournament. The script, co-written by O'Connor, isn't always steady on its feet, but the actors score knockouts. Tom Hardy, the fireball star of Bronson, brings animal force to Tommy Conlon, an Iraq War veteran returned home to Philadelphia after 14 years. He has no use for his troubled father, Paddy (an exceptionally fine Nick Nolte), who abused his late wife. But Tommy wants Daddy dearest, a wrestling coach, to prep him for an MMA competition that could earn him $5 million. Tommy's married older brother, Brendan (a very fine Joel Edgerton), also wants the prize, to save his home from foreclosure. The brutal MMA action is skillfully staged. But Warrior aspires to myth. It's Cain and Abel battling it out in the face of a decidedly ungodly father before humanity goes down for the count. Strong stuff.
From The Archives Issue 1139: September 15, 2011